What is the tone of the meeting that Ralph holds at the beginning of chapter five of Lord of the Flies by William Golding?

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

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In chapter four of William Golding's Lord of the Flies, Jack and his hunters let the signal fire go out and a ship that might have rescued them passed by without ever being aware that the boys were on the island. Ralph was furious and immediately called for an assembly back on the beach. Chapter five opens with Ralph making his way alone down the mountain and trying to collect his thoughts for the upcoming meeting.

We hear his thoughts, and he tells us what he intends for the tone of the meeting to be:

This meeting must not be fun, but business.

He keeps walking while he tries to think, a task he knows is easy for Piggy but difficult for him, and he feels a sense of urgency because it is already getting dark. When he arrives, some of the boys are already waiting in groups on the beach.  

They made way for him silently, conscious of his grim mood and the fault at the fire.

Everything looks different now, because they have never had an assembly this late. Add this to Ralph's anger about the missed rescue opportunity and the idea that this is a meeting for business, and the tone is rather grim. There is a "general air of solemnity" that all of the boys seem to feel, something new for them since most of their meetings are rather raucous and full of highjinks.

Ralph opens the meeting in a way that reflects the seriousness of his purpose:

“We need an assembly. Not for fun. Not for laughing and falling off the log”--the group of littluns on the twister giggled and looked at each other--”not for making jokes, or for”--he lifted the conch in an effort to find the compelling word--”for cleverness. Not for these things. But to put things straight.’’

It is clear from his words as well as his demeanor that this meeting is no time for goofing around or cracking jokes. This is a serious meeting for a serious cause, and the boys respond to the tone of their leader. Things will undoubtedly loosen up as the meeting progresses, but it begins as a serious and weighty gathering, different from any other they have had.

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