Why did Ralph and his group feel threatened by their suspicion that Jack's tribe would be painted?

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lentzk's profile pic

Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Jack and his hunters use the paint to intimidate the other boys.  When Jack tries the paint on for the first time, the narrator describes the mask as a "thing on its own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness" (64).  Later in Chapter 11, when Ralph and the boys debate on how to present themselves as Castle Rock, Eric points out that he fears seeing them painted, protesting:

"'But they'll be painted! You know how it is.'

The others nodded. They understood only too well the liberation into savagery that the concealing paint brought'" (172). 

Ralph makes the judgment call to go and meet Jack and his hunters without wearing any paint; even though the others see the paint as giving the hunters an unfair advantage, Of course, the advantage is that the boys wearing paint can act however they choose--no being held back by the rules or niceties of civilization; as savages they have no compunction.  Ralph has the insight to see that donning the paint is an acceptance of savagery.  Even when Samneric try to argue a little, Ralph remains adamant and shouts "No paint!" (173).  Ralph's decision not to wear paint reveals commitment to remaining civilized and his desire to meet Jack on his own terms, without having to cower behind a false mask.

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redrocket88's profile pic

redrocket88 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

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The masks worn by the hunters are also an example of what they represent/who they are. “The concealing paint,” helps the hunters to stand out, and in the end becomes a symbol of the boys “liberation into savagery.” Ralph and his group are threatened by the physical signs of affiliation worn by Jack and his followers as they are afraid that it demonstrates a demise of civilization on the island. 

The barbaric life of the boys within Jack’s group seem hardly capable of comprehending the rules of civilization.

Ralph – “We won’t be painted… because we aren’t savages.”

It is clear that Ralph his group fear savagery has taken over and this corresponds with the belief that they won't ever be rescued.

- The signal fire is forgotten about and it is obvious that the boys have lost sight of their desire to be rescued and have accepted their savage lives on the island. Ralph never understands this. Ironically it is a fire of savagery that summons the ship to the island.

... hope this kinda helps :)