Two separate illustrations of an animal head and a fire on a mountain

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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What is Ralph's "personal hell"?

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In chapter 6, hysteria spreads throughout the group of boys after Samneric claim that they witnessed the beast on the top of the mountain. Ralph struggles to quell the hysteria and Jack insists that he and his hunters will kill the beast. Feeling stressed and overwhelmed, Ralph allows Jack to lead the expedition in search of the beast. As Ralph is following Jack's lead and marching through the forest, Simon attempts to comfort Ralph but ends up walking directly into a tree. Golding then writes,

"Ralph dismissed Simon and returned to his personal hell" (148).

At this point in the novel, Ralph is completely overwhelmed with anxiety and is depressed by the terrible situation at hand. Ralph is not only confused about the identity of the beast but is also upset that the boys refuse to follow his directives. Being that Ralph symbolically represents civilization, order, and rational thought, his personal hell is anarchy, fear, and savagery. Essentially, Ralph's personal hell is the current state of affairs on the island, where Jack leads a group of savages in search of an enigmatic beast instead of helping cultivate and establish a civil society. Ralph’s personal hell is also a hysterical, threatening atmosphere, where there are no rules, regulations, or authority figures to ensure stability and comfort.

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