Why is Ralph so angry about the boys rolling rocks in The Lord of the Flies?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Ralph is angry that the boys are rolling rocks instead of minding the fire and other useful pursuits.

Ralph complains about “rolling rocks” as an example of the boys playing around when they could be doing something useful.  He says that they are wasting time. 

“And another thing. We nearly set the whole island on fire. And we waste time, rolling rocks, and making little cooking fires. Now I say this and make it a rule, because I’m chief. We won’t have a fire anywhere but on the mountain. Ever.” (Ch. 5)

This is immediately after his, “We’ve got to make smoke up there—or die” comment.  Ralph is fed up.  He is having a very difficult time being a leader.  It is like herding cats.  The boys are not listening to him.  He can’t get anyone to follow his rules.  He is losing control of Jack and the hunters, and he is beginning to doubt that they will ever get rescued.

When Ralph is elected chief, it is because he blew the conch.  He never really had any qualifications.  He isn’t even the one who really has leadership skills.  Jack is more qualified, because he has been the choir leader.  Jack also has a built-in base in the choir.  Ralph has the conch, and it is imbued with symbolism because when he blew it everyone came.  That is the only reason they vote for him.  However, he is never very effective as a leader.

At the point that Ralph makes this comment, he realizes that he is starting to lose Jack and the hunters.  He knows that the boys are starting to break apart.  He is also beginning to worry more and more that they will not get rescued, or that they will start a fire that will kill them all.  These are serious issues.

Jack continually tries to interrupt him during this meeting, and Ralph tries to avoid him.

“Things are breaking up. I don’t understand why. We began well; we were happy. And then—”

He moved the conch gently, looking beyond them at nothing, remembering the beastie, the snake, the fire, the talk of fear.

“Then people started getting frightened.” (Ch. 5)

Jack scoffs at the idea of the beast.  What he wants to do is hunt.  The conch is losing its power over him.  For him, the draw of the island is in blood and war paint, and letting go of the trappings of civilization.  There is no fun in talk of beasts.  He is not interested in Ralph's rules.  For Ralph, it is the beginning of the end.  Far more of the boys will follow Jack and the romance of the hunt.

The fight between Jack and Ralph is the fight between order and chaos.  It is the duality of human nature.  Each of us has a Jack and a Ralph within us.  Some people are more on one end of the spectrum than others at different times, and certain situations allow us to decide which end of the spectrum we want to choose.

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