Explain Ralph's goals in William Golding's Lord of the Flies. 

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, is set on a tropical island, and the characters are all English schoolboys who have survived a plane crash. The boys range in age from five or six to about thirteen, and Ralph is one of the older boys. He has been elected leader by the group because he looks like a leader; however, Ralph does not possess true leadership skills.

At the beginning of chapter three, Ralph is quite discouraged by the fact that the rest of the group is perfectly willing to attend meetings twice a day and talk about making some outrageous things and doing what needs to be done, but they are unwilling to work for more than a few minutes before they are bored or distracted. 

Ralph has established two important goals, neither of which seem to be very important to anyone else on the island (with the possible exceptions of Simon and Piggy). First, he wants to keep a fire going so they can be rescued. Second, he wants to build huts on the beach both for shelter and for some sense of protection from the nightmares they are all having about the beasts.

When he shares his frustrations with Jack, neither boy can even articulate the thought of a beast; when Ralph mentions rescue, "Jack had to think for a moment before he could remember what rescue was." One hut is built well; the other two are likely to tumble over in the next storm so there will be no protection from either real or imaginary beasts. No one is tending the fire effectively, so there will be no rescue from passing ships who might see the smoke. 

Ralph's goals are admirable; however, he does not possess the leadership skills to implement them and both plans fail. In the end, the beast (which is them) does not destroy them (with a few notable exceptions), and they are, indeed, rescued by a ship which sees their smoke. Neither of these things, however, is attributable to Ralph or his leadership skills.

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