Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis
Ralph, scraped and bloodied, approaches Castle Rock carefully. He glimpses the boys atop the fort. Seeing that they are feasting on pig, Ralph figures that he has time to retreat to safety and eat. He reflects that his relationship with Jack has achieved a state of pure animosity, with slim chance of reconciliation. When he arrives at the fruit trees, the littluns there are frightened of his ragged appearance and they scatter. Ralph returns to the shelters, which he finds empty. With no other plan, Ralph begins to walk back to Castle Rock.
Ralph stumbles into the clearing where the pig’s head stands skewered on the stake; by now the head is pure skull. He imagines it grinning at him, as if it “knows all the answers and won’t tell.” Ralph strikes the skull, knocking it down and splitting it in two so that its grin widens upward at the sky.
Ralph arrives again at the base of Castle Rock at nightfall. He meditates on his outcast state, realizing that it would be impossible to attempt a truce. He hears the sounds of feasting and notices that the two boys on sentry duty must be Samneric. He carefully climbs up the rock and gets their attention by whispering their names. He frightens the two boys but reassures them, saying, “‘I came to see you two.’” Samneric encourage Ralph to leave and tell him that they were violently forced to join Jack’s tribe. They tell Ralph that Jack plans to gather his tribe to hunt down Ralph the next day. Ralph tells Samneric that he plans to hide in the nearby thicket, and they give him some meat. Ralph asks, “‘What are you going to do when you catch me?’” They reply, “‘Roger sharpened a stick at both ends.’”
Ralph wonders about the stick sharpened at both ends as he slips down to the nearby thicket, scouts out a concealed place to sleep for the night, and settles in. At first light Ralph wakens and hears the sounds of Jack’s tribes issuing ululations as their hunt for Ralph begins. Nestled in the deep thicket, Ralph waits calmly as the tribe passes on. Then he hears the low sound of Jack’s voice speaking urgently to Samneric, asking them, “‘He meant he’d hide in here?’” Ralph realizes that the twins have reported his location. He prepares for contact but knows he is well defended. He hears a cry from the top of Castle Rock as the boys unleash a rock that crashes down and tumbles through the undergrowth, followed by an enormous boulder that nearly flattens Ralph in its course.
As the boys begin to edge into the clearing, Ralph stabs at them with his spear, keeping them at bay. Smoke begins to pour upward; the boys have lit the foliage on fire. Ralph sees an opening into the jungle and, attacking a painted boy standing in the way, darts into the trees and sprints frantically along a pig-run. As he escapes he hears the ululations of the boys approaching in a long line, evenly spaced across the width of the island, sweeping through the jungle in their hunt for Ralph. Exhausted, crashing through the dense trees, Ralph tries to formulate a plan. His options are to crash through the line of boys as a startled pig would, climb up a tree, or find a hiding spot. As the line of boys draws near, he finds a low, densely covered patch and hides himself, spear in hand.
The fire has spread into the main jungle and begun to devour the entire island in a forward crawl, causing the sky to fill with smoke. As both the fire and the line of boys get closer, Ralph braces himself. He notices one boy a few yards away walking his direction. In his limited field of vision, he can see the boy’s weapon—a stake sharpened at both ends—and legs drawing closer. The boy stares directly into the dark patch where Ralph lies; Ralph screams and launches himself at the boy, knocking him to the ground. He sprints forward and confronts the wall of flaming trees. He veers right and begins running toward the beach, with the conflagration raging to the left. With Jack’s tribe trailing him, he...
(The entire section is 1,427 words.)