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 the significance of the title of chapter 12, "Cry of the Hunters," in William Golding's Lord of the Flies?

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In this final chapter, the cry of savages sweeps the island, hunting for the one remaining symbol of order and civilization: Ralph. Jack and Roger have coerced everyone into joining them, even faithful Samneric. The twins warn Ralph that Jack plans to line the boys up and sweep the island until Ralph is found. They tell Ralph that sense is "gone" and being chief no longer matters. Nothing matters now except hunting and fear. After they leave him, Ralph hears their cries of panic; they are in trouble with the group of savages.

Noticeably in this chapter, the boys are identified as "savages" more than by their own identities. In fact, their physical forms have degenerated so much that Ralph has trouble identifying them. In the end, when rescuers arrive, Percival cannot remember his own name. Civilization and personal identity being completely lost to him.

So the savages line up to kill Ralph, and as they do, they cry out in great "ululations," which is a cry typically associated with grief. There is a loss of humanity in the boys; they do not see the value of human life in themselves or in others. They have become lost in their quests of taking one life after another.

And thus, they all but kill themselves and every living thing on the island. Fire rages, likely destroying the fruit trees which they rely on, and wildlife flees from the path of fiery destruction they have created.

The cry represents the wild, savage final mission of Jack's group. These savages began as hunters with a noble goal of feeding the group, but because they have chosen to follow leaders who lack character, their original goals have deteriorated into beastly destruction.

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The final chapter of William Golding's Lord of the Flies is called "Cry of the Hunters," and it is an apt title in several ways. The story follows a group of English schoolboys who, without the restraints of rules or authority, devolve into what Golding calls "savages." This last chapter is his final picture of what man becomes (what human nature is) without any kind of order or law.

The word hunters in the title is straightforward and easy to explain. Jack is chief of the hunters, and in this chapter that includes every remaining boy on the island except Ralph.

The word cry as used in the title has multiple meanings in this chapter. First, it refers to the literal chants and cries of the hunters. When Jack gives the order for his hunters to kill Ralph, Ralph runs for his life and is pursued by the savages. Soon he hears them chanting from a distance: “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!” Eventually the cry becomes less specific but more frightening. Ralph wakes up in his hiding place one morning and hears a frightening sound.

It was an ululation over by the seashore—and now the next savage answered and the next. The cry swept by him across the narrow end of the island from sea to lagoon, like the cry of a flying bird.

This cry is different than the chant he heard yesterday, and it portends his imminent death. 

Another kind of cry in this chapter is Ralph's attempted cry for mercy when he has been driven to the exposed beach by the fire set by the hunters. "Then he was down, rolling over and over in the warm sand, crouching with arm to ward off, trying to cry for mercy." He cannot even articulate these words, but he clearly makes a plea for his life.

Finally, cry in the title of this final chapter also refers to the literal crying Ralph and the others do when they are discovered by the naval officer in the last paragraphs of the novel.

The tears began to flow and sobs shook him. [Ralph] gave himself up to them now for the first time on the island; great, shuddering spasms of grief that seemed to wrench his whole body. His voice rose under the black smoke before the burning wreckage of the island; and infected by that emotion, the other little boys began to shake and sob too. And in the middle of them, with filthy body, matted hair, and unwiped nose, Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.

Though the savages nearly ruined the island (and their own chance to survive) with fire and surely would have killed Ralph if they had not been rescued (ironically because of that consuming fire), Golding  offers some sense of hope in this final expression of emotion. The title of this final chapter, "The Cry of the Hunters," is fitting for all of the action and meaning in this last chapter of the novel.

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