How does Ralph as a leader contrast with Roger as a follower in Lord of the Flies?(Please explain how Ralph fits as a leader, but Roger is more of a follower.)

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

From the onset of the narrative, Ralph appears as a natural-born leader:  He is athletic, attractive, confident. There is a "directness" in his demeanor that indicates what is described as "genuine leadership."  As the stranded boys survey the island, Ralph spreads his arms and declares, "This belongs to us...All ours."

On the other hand, Roger emerges as a dark-haired, furtive boy who "kept to himself with an inner intensity of avoidance and secrecy." Although he knows how to start a fire by making a bow and spinning the arrow, he makes no effort to take charge of any activity. Instead, he has a negative perspective.  When, for instance, the boys fail to keep the first rescue fire burning, Roger spits into the dust when Ralph scolds them. He later declares,

"I've been watching the sea.  There hasn't been the trace of a ship.  Perhaps we'll never be rescued."

When the boys begin to become unruly, Ralph fights to maintain order, using the conch and urging the boys to build shelters and stoke the rescue fire.  However, Roger is destructive and sadistic, kicking down the sand castles built by small boys, scattering sand into their eyes. When one boy named Henry sits at the water's edge and plays with the sand crabs, Roger throws stones at him, missing him only because his arm has been conditioned "by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins."

After the boys join Jack and begin to become savage, Ralph turns on the hunters,

"You hunters!....But I tell you the smoke is more important than the pig...We've got to make smoke up there--or die.

Ralph realizes that things begin to break up; however, Roger simply revels in sadistic pleasure.  When, for example, the boys ascend the mountain, seeking a pig, Ralph knows he should lead, but Roger enjoys rolling rocks.  When Ralph scolds the boys about pushing off rocks, Roger shouts, "We've got plenty of time." In Chapter Seven as the boys close in on a pig, Roger runs behind Jack, "fighting to get close."  As they resume their climb, Ralph and Jack conflict in their competition for leadership, but Roger stealthily follows Ralph, banging his wooden stick against something in order to unnerve Ralph.

Always Ralph tries to keep the boys focused upon the importance of the rescue fire, telling them although he, too, would like to put on war-paint and act the savage, "we must keep the fire burning." But, unlike Ralph who upholds what he believes is right by telling Piggy that during the ritual in which they participated ended in Simon's death--"Don't you understand, Piggy?  The things we did--" Roger does not stand against wrong. For instance, in Chapter Ten when he learns that Jack is going to beat Wilfred, Roger merely

received the news as an illumination, assimilating the possibilities of irresponsible authority.

Having this "liberation into savagery," Roger throws a small stone between Sam and Eric and feels a sadistic power which grows until he finally unleashes a huge boulder onto Piggy's head, sending Piggy down the rocks and into the waters of death.  While Roger "carries death in his hands," it is Ralph who, after being rescued, weeps "for the end of innocence.," displaying a leader's concern for the others.

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Lord of the Flies

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