What is Ralph's opinion of his appearance as chapter 7 begins? What do his feelings indicate?

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MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As chapter 7 opens, Ralph notices his dirty shirt, overly long hair, and longs for "a bath, a proper wallow with soap." He also sees that he has begun biting his nails. The fact that he does not remember beginning this habit is evidence that the boys are reverting back to a more infant-like state, as further shown by his remark that he'll be sucking his thumb next. At this point Ralph has a flash of insight, a realization that the boys on this island are moving further away from rationality, and into the realm of savagery and chaos. As he looks at the other boys, he observes

Not one of them was an obvious subject for a shower, and yet—hair, much too long, tangled here and there, knotted round a dead leaf or a twig; faces cleaned fairly well by the process of eating and sweating but marked in less accessible angles with a kind of shadow; clothes, worn away, stiff like his own with sweat, put on, not for decorum or comfort but out of custom; the skin of the body, scurfy with brine—

He discovered with a little fall of the heart that these were the conditions he took as normal now and that he did not mind.

This revelation is a reflection of the boys’ increasing loss of identity. The longer they remain on the island, the farther away from their civilized selves they move. Ralph is the only one that longs for a bath, haircut, and manicure. Thus he is the only one who notices this descent into an almost animal-like state. This will be highlighted later in the chapter, in the pig-killing scene.

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Lord of the Flies

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