Why does Ralph mature while the other boys turn to savagery in Lord of the Flies?

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Douglas Horley | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

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From the start of the novel Ralph is set apart from others his age because of his size, athleticism and family background. Importantly, he is described as having "a mildness about his mouth and eyes that proclaimed no devil" (p. 15). This foreshadows Ralph's later reluctance to descend into the violence and savagery that marked the hunters. In contrast to Ralph, we see early on in the novel the touch of bitterness and resentment that Jack feels about not being elected leader. The reader can detect a weakness in Jack (based on a born to rule mentality) that hastens his slide into base behaviour and savagery.

Ralph's loss of innocence is a painful process. He can never fathom why Jack and the hunters don't value the signal fire, and his early wild excitement at being on an island with no adults ends only in tears for  "the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart......" (p. 248). Ralph may be a failed leader, but he never loses sight of what he believes to be the most important priorities for remaining civilized and 'sensible'. This puts him at odds with Jack and his hunters who fall prey to the lure of anarchy and unrestrained violence.

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