Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1017
The morning after the feast, Ralph, Piggy, Samneric, and a few littluns are back at the original camp. The rest of the boys have abandoned the cause of getting rescued. Ralph and Piggy try to discuss the events of the previous evening, but both boys are wracked with guilt and disgust. Moreover, they find themselves baffled by their actions. Piggy suspects that he joined in the violent dance because he was scared, to which Ralph replies, “‘I don’t know what I was.’” Piggy expresses the hopeful possibility that Simon is still alive, but the boys know the truth.
The gravity of their situation—the dissolution of their plans, the splitting of the group, the death of Simon, the unlikelihood of rescue—descends on them. The two boys protect themselves by saying that they did not really participate in the savage festivities. When Samneric arrive, the four boys avoid directly addressing the tragedy of the night before. They all claim not to have participated, despite their obvious cuts and scrapes.
On the other side of the island, Jack’s tribe has turned the small, connected outcropping into a fort, which they call “Castle Rock.” Roger approaches the fort but is screened first by a sentry. Roger learns that inside the fort a boy named Wilfred is being beaten. The sentry shows him the fort’s defenses, which include a log that has been lodged under a rock on one end, ready to cast it down onto the causeway below.
When he enters the fort, Roger finds Jack, clad in face paint, holding an assembly. Jack tells the others that they will go hunting the next day, but that the fort must be guarded at all times from the other boys as well as the beast. The boys are frightened into agreement. Discussing the previous night’s events, Jack claims the beast “came—disguised.” Stanley tries to ask about the killing of Simon. Jack declares that they did not kill him, but the boys all silently acknowledge the difficult truth, each one “flinch[ing] away from his individual memory.” Jack then underscores the need to leave the pigs’ heads as a sacrifice to the beast. The boys discuss the problem of starting a fire for the next feast. Jack hatches a plan to go steal fire from the other boys, and he enlists Roger and Maurice to come with him.
Back at the old camp, Ralph, Piggy, and Samneric torpidly gather wood and build a fire. The boys are all exhausted, disheartened, and verging on hopelessness, and the wood is too wet to light. They all settle down to sleep in one of the shelters but restlessness keeps them from sleep. Samneric wrestle while locked in a bad dream. Piggy and Ralph joke about the possibility of Piggy writing a letter to his aunt to ask for help, which sends Ralph into fits of laughter. Eventually, the boys all sleep.
Piggy wakes Ralph, telling him to listen for rustling sounds outside. Suddenly, dark figures flood into the shelter and attack the boys. In the pitch black, Ralph wrestles with the invaders, trading blows and bashing one in the face. In the scuffle, the shelter collapses. Just as suddenly, the invaders leave. The boys gather themselves outside and help Piggy, who has taken the most significant beating. Piggy remarks that they didn’t take the conch, as he had expected; he is overcome with sorrow when he realized what they took instead. Down the beach, Jack slinks away carrying his prize: Piggy’s glasses.
Chapter 10 makes clear the shift in power from Ralph to Jack, from civilization to savagery, and from truth-telling to lying. Ralph, Piggy, and Samneric continue to adhere to their prior goals and principles, but they are descending into despair, having lost the majority of the group and having witnessed—and participated in—the merciless killing of Simon. As they go about their tasks, their sense of a larger vision of being rescued has become occluded to the point that they cannot recall precisely why they are doing what they are doing. They can acknowledge the truths at hand—that Simon was cruelly killed and that rescue is unlikely—but they have no grandiose fictions to protect themselves from those truths.
Conversely, Jack is gaining more power. Jack succeeds in distracting his gang from the difficult truths around them. Rather than allowing them to confront the stark reality of their being stranded, Jack offers the boys the fun of hunting and feasting on pig. Rather than letting them face the fact that they killed Simon, Jack concocts preposterous stories about the beast, thereby scaring the boys into doing what he tells them to. Unlike Ralph, Jack harnesses the forces of fiction and rhetoric, brazenly lying in order to control the boys. Jack has become a propagandistic dictator.
Roger’s reflections add weight to the terror of Jack’s rule. Seeing Jack’s vicious regime, Roger considers the possibilities of irresponsible authority and dreams of pushing the regime to even greater heights of brutality. Without any formal or moral restraints, Roger is able to embrace his dark desires.
Jack’s raid on Ralph’s camp further illustrates the shift in power and priorities among the boys. Piggy initially protects the conch, fearing that Jack wants to take it to gain power. However, fire has assumed the primary symbolic role of power on the island. The conch has lost influence—it is no longer even a target worthy of Jack’s ambition. While once fire was a symbol of hope for rescue, now Jack has captured the ability to make fire serve needs.
The two groups’ differing uses of fire symbolizes the essential differences between the two. Whereas Ralph hopes to harness fire in order to signal for rescue, Jack wants fire in order to feast. The fact that there is only one set of glasses on the island indicates that only one agenda and social order can prevail on the island. By the end of chapter 10, it is clear that Jack’s agenda is prevailing.
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