Lord of the Flies by William Golding

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Where does the blame for the child's death lie in chapter 2 of Lord of the Flies?

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Although the reader would probably like to pin the blame for the child's death solely on Jack, the truth is that all the characters are culpable for the fire that grew out of control.  Jack is the first to lead the boys up the mountain to make the fire, and Ralph joins them resignedly "with the martyred expression of a parent who has to keep up with the senseless ebullience of the children" (38).  However, once Ralph and Piggy join the boys at the mountain top, Ralph joins the fire-making craze as well, helping to add more logs and branches to the enormous pile.  Even Piggy shares in the responsibility at the end of the chapter for the child's death, because he did not keep track of the littluns' names and number so as to monitor their whereabouts more efficiently. 

The grim realization that the boy with the mulberry birthmark has gone missing casts a dark shadow on the exciting glamour of their adventure; this moment in the novel reinforces the stark reality of the boys' current conditions, reminding both reader and boys alike not to underestimate the dangers of the island.

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edcon eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Because none of the boys chose to be marooned or were in any way prepared to look after themselves or each other in the extremity of their situation, it would be unfair to blame any one specifically for the child's accidental death.

However, since both Jack and Ralph stepped forward and competed to lead the others, it could be said that they are jointly responsible. It is the responsibility of leaders to have a vision and the wisdom to delegate specific responsibilities to their subordinates. But to be fair, almost none of the boys can resist the temptation to build the fire, and they aren't yet experienced enough to understand what is at stake. Every decision they make, reasoned or impulsive, is likely to profoundly affect the others.

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