Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis
Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 871
Jacks stalks through the jungle after a pig, tracking its movement through the brush and wielding a sharpened stick. After noticing some disarrayed vines, Jack finds a pig run and hears a pig rustling ahead. He hurls his spear at the pig but it scampers away into the jungle.
When Jack returns to the beach, he finds Ralph and Simon working to build a series of shelters. Simon, busy within one of the shelters, makes a mistake, and a section of the shelter collapses. In three days of labor, Ralph and Simon have only raised two shoddy shelters. They are growing frustrated, particularly by their lack of assistance; Ralph blames Jack for not helping, and Simon blames the littluns for their inability to focus on a task for more than a few minutes. Jack defends himself, claiming that hunting is an equally crucial task. Ralph retorts by pointing out that Jack’s fellow hunters all abandoned him and that Jack has been unsuccessful so far.
The argument gives way to a discussion of the “beastie.” The littluns have been dreaming about it at night, an event Simon considers significant enough that the “beastie” ought to be taken seriously. Jack adds that he feels a presence stalking him when he hunts and that he suspects it may be the “beastie.” Ralph thinks that, whether it exists or not, the only solution is to get rescued. Jack, seemingly uninterested in the prospect of rescue, falls again into his dream of killing a pig.
Ralph and Jack then wander down the beach together, each lost in thought. Ralph is primarily concerned with building shelters for all the boys and tending the fire so as to get rescued. Jack is unswervingly obsessed with hunting. When they speak, they cannot communicate. Ralph is repelled by Jack’s monomania. Jack cares little for Ralph’s efforts. They remain locked in their differences of opinion.
Simon begins to walk with the other two boys but soon veers off alone into a particularly inviting portion of jungle. He walks among laden orchards, plucking fruit to share with the younger boys. As he progresses deeper into the jungle, Simon slowly rises into a kind of reverie, enchanted by the rich perfume of the forest foliage and dazzled by the play of evening light as it deepens and descends through the canopy. He is enraptured first by the glowing heat and then by the oncoming coolness of night. He studies the “candle-buds” that open to the evening sky, expanding their white flowers upward and thickening the air with their heady elixir; overhead, night slowly floods the heavens, casting down shimmers of starlight.
The theme of political disorder that arises in chapter 2 continues in chapter 3. The boys cannot unify and stay organized. More importantly, Ralph and Jack, the two leaders of the group, cannot agree on an agenda and are slowly becoming riven by their disagreements. The two boys harbor different sets of priorities. For Ralph, protecting the group and getting rescued are most important. For Jack, killing a pig is what matters most. Ralph’s plan encompasses the good of the other boys and extends into the future. By contrast, Jack can only think of his immediate, self-directed desire to hunt. As the story progresses, the boys only grow more disparate in their aims. By the end of chapter 3, there are distinct signs of discord between them.
Ralph’s growing frustrations with the lack of progress contribute to the mounting chaos within the boys’ fragile order. Ralph is burdened by his leadership role and sees the lack of organization and progress on the shelters as harmful to the boys’ society. Furthermore, his preoccupation with the fire, and his difficulty in getting others to care about it, reveal the fire as a symbol of responsibility. Ralph knows that they must be responsible and work hard to get rescued, but it is becoming increasingly difficult.
The “beastie” is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. Whether or not it really exists, it is real in the imaginations of the younger boys, who dream of it. When Jack claims to have felt its presence pursuing him in the jungle, he lends the creature a greater status in the group’s collective imagination.
Simon emerges as a unique and important character. To Ralph, he is central, the only boy who assists him in his efforts. And yet he is still “queer” and “funny,” a characterization with which Jack agrees. Indeed, the final scene of the chapter offers readers a direct view into Simon’s world, which is a flood of sensuous experience. As the narration drifts into Simon’s consciousness at the chapter’s end, Golding intensifies the language, evoking through rich sensory detail the jungle as night falls upon it. The sights, sounds, textures, temperatures, scents, and colors of the forest are all made more vivid for the reader when channeled through Simon’s experience of it. With his aesthetic and artistic sensibility, Simon plays the role of a Monet or Gauguin whom we can follow across the island’s landscape, seeing it all the better through his eye. His ability to see events clearly separates him from the other boys on the island.