What is the significance of the title of chapter twelve, "Cry of the Hunters," in William Golding's Lord of the Flies?
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.