In what ways do the boys (Ralph, Jack, Piggy, Roger, Littluns, Simon) look different when they first arrive on the island?

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kcoleman2016 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Let's do a compare-contrast of each boy: 


  • Before: In the beginning, Ralph is described as young, healthy, and still maintaining many characteristics of society. The diction, or word choice, that Golding uses with him is associated with light, goodness, and strength. He is referred to as "the fair boy" (4) with "a mildness around his mouth and eyes that proclaimed no devil" (6) and a "golden body" (7).
  • After: By the end, Ralph is battered and broken. The diction used to describe him is dark, injured, and carries a distinctly terrified tone. Golding comments on "the bruised flesh [that] was inches in diameter over his ribs" as well as his hair, "full of dirt and tapped like the tendrils of a creeper" (143). What perhaps is most distinct in the transformation of Ralph is his behavior; in the beginning, he is raucous, confident, kind, and a natural leader. By the end, he is motivated solely by survival, constantly hoping to stay safe and be able to listen (143). 


  • Before: Jack is the leader of a group of boys whose "bodies, from throat to ankle, were hidden by black cloaks" (14). From the start, he is associated with images of darkness, ugliness, and violence. Golding describes him as "tall, thin, and bony; and his hair was red beneath the black cap. His face was crumpled and freckled, and ugly without silliness. Out of this face stared two light blue eyes, frustrated now, and turning, or ready to turn, to anger" (14). Jack, like Ralph, is characterized as a leader, but of a very different sort. 
  • After: Jack is still the leader of a hidden tribe, this time invisible from distance rather than cloaks; Ralph hears them always chanting "Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!" (145). Jack, as well as his tribe, are "painted out of recognition," dehumanizing them and turning them into beasts themselves (136). In the end, Jack is only recognizable "by personality and red hair" because his face has been transformed into a mask of "black and green" (137). 


  • Before: Sadly, we never learn Piggy's real name, but fittingly, all of the language used to describe his appearance is animalistic, fat, and somewhat discomfiting. Golding introduces him wearing "a greasy windbreaker. The naked crooks of his knees were plump, caught and scratched by the thorns" (4). He is short, fat, and wears "thick spectacles" (4). 
  • After: Jack's tribe steals Piggy's glasses, leaving him nearly the same as the beginning but blind and helpless. Roger releases a boulder onto Piggy, sending him down a 40 foot cliff to his death, where "his head opened and stuff came out and turned red. Piggy's arms and legs twitched a bit, like a pig's after it has been killed. Then the sea breathed again in a long, slow sigh, the water boiled white and pink over the rock; and when it went, sucking back again, the body of Piggy was gone" (141). Like a beast, Piggy has been slaughtered. 


  • Before: Roger is a member of Jack's choir, "a slight, furtive boy whom no one knew, who kept to himself with an inner intensity of avoidance and secrecy" (16). He barely speaks and blends in with the choirboys. 
  • After: Roger embraces the anarchy of the island, but only slowly adapts to it, best characterized by the scene of stone-throwing at Henry (47). He becomes one of the first boys to paint his face with Jack (48). He is the boy who kills Piggy, and for Jack, he has "sharpened a stick at both ends" (148). He becomes a boy for whom violence and pain are extremely exciting. 


  • Before: The littluns begin the book as docile and willing to follow direction. They often cry, but they follow the directives that Ralph asks of them. Unfortunately, the older boys see them as "hopeless [...] They're off bathing, or eating, or playing" (38). 
  • After: By the end, the littluns have formed their own society that feeds off of Jack's meat but is otherwise uninvolved with the biguns' war. 


  • Before: Simon begins as one of the indistinguishable choir boys, but he sets himself apart as "the choir boy who fainted," revealing a crack of humanity within their mass (16). He is a "skinny, vivid little boy," a description that evokes both fragility and life (17). 
  • After: Simon is transformed by the boys' fear into the beast itself: "a thing was crawling out of the forest. It came darkly, uncertainly. The shrill screaming that rose before the beast was like a pain. The beast stumbled into the horseshoe" (118). After his brutal death, Simon is once again associated with both fragility and light: "Softly, surrounded by a fringe of inquisitive bright creatures, itself a silver shape beneath the steadfast constellations, Simon's dead body moved out toward the open sea" (119). 
Read the study guide:
Lord of the Flies

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