What makes Ralph angry when Jack returns from the first successful pig hunt in William Golding's Lord of the Flies?

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ralph is the elected leader of the boy in Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, and he does not get angry very often. Frustrated yes, but not angry. The first time Jack and his hunters kill a pig, however, Ralph is furious, though he shows it mostly in his silence.

The hunters, and Jack especially, are ecstatic because they have finally had a successful hunt. Unfortunately, Jack and his hunters were also in charge of keeping the signal fire lit; they allowed the fire to go out and the worst possible thing happens. A ship goes by the island and they miss an opportunity to be rescued.

The conversation between Ralph and Jack would be humorous if it were not such a life-and-death matter. Jack gushes about the hunt and twice Ralph just makes a simple statement: “You let the fire go out.”

Jack gets defensive and claims they needed meat, but Ralph is undeterred and there is a moment of awful reality. Ralph says:

“There was a ship.”

Jack, faced at once with too many awful implications, ducked away from them. He laid a hand on the pig and drew his knife. Ralph brought his arm down, fist clenched, and his voice shook.“There was a ship. Out there. You said you’d keep the fire going and you let it out!” He took a step toward Jack, who turned and faced him. “They might have seen us. We might have gone home—”

“I was chief, and you were going to do what I said. You talk. But you can’t even build huts—then you go off hunting and let out the fire—” He turned away, silent for a moment. Then his voice came again on a peak of feeling.
“There was a ship—”

When the realization sinks in, the little boys begin to wail at the loss. This incident, and Ralph's anger, increases the rift between Ralph and Jack, something which will eventually cause great destruction and even death on this island. 

Read the study guide:
Lord of the Flies

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