Lord of the Flies Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis
by William Golding

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Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis


The chapter begins with a description of the day-to-day life the boys adopt. They fall into a rhythm of working, playing, eating, and sleeping, their actions often determined by the position of the sun as it arcs across the sky. At noonday they often see glimmering, surreal objects on the horizon, which Piggy understands to be mirages, effects of the extreme heat.

Henry, Percival, and Johnny, three of the littluns, are making sandcastles on the beach when Roger and Maurice approach from the forest. Roger immediately kicks the castles into dust, casting sand into the eyes of Percival, one of the smallest and most sensitive of the littluns, who begins to cry. Roger feels a pang of guilt, a holdover from his former civilized life. Then Roger wanders off and watches Henry, who is now playing with arthropods at the waterline. Roger hurls stones at Henry, making them fall a few feet away, never too close. His desire to hit the boy is again restrained by his impulses toward social order. When Henry turns and looks his way, Roger quickly hides behind a palm tree.

Jack crosses paths with Roger and asks the boy to come with him. They go to a pool of water, where Samneric and Bill await them. Jack reveals two leaves filled with red and white clay, as well as a charcoal stick. He explains his plan to use the clay for camouflage while hunting. He experiments with different patterns, eventually covering half his face in white clay, the other in red, and drawing a black charcoal line between the two. Jack, enthralled by the savage new “mask” he has taken on, begins to whoop and sing. He gathers the boys together and leads them into the woods to begin their hunt.

Over at the lagoon, Ralph, Piggy, Simon, and Maurice are swimming. Piggy approaches Ralph with the idea of constructing sundials out of sticks. Ralph scoffs at the idea and smiles at Piggy in derision. Piggy thinks Ralph is on his side, not realizing that Ralph—along with the other boys—has turned his back on Piggy, disdaining his appearance and manner.

Suddenly, Ralph notices a thread of smoke rising from the horizon out at sea. He leaps up, shouting “Smoke! Smoke!” Ecstatic, the boys hope the ship might see their signal fire blazing on the mountaintop. Ralph immediately begins scrambling through the jungle towards the mountain, fearing that the fire may not be burning. The boys soon arrive at the fire and find that the hunters tasked with its care have abandoned their post, letting the fire die. Ralph is furious and horror-stricken at the reality that the ship has passed by, unaware of the boys.

Then the boys peer down the mountainside and see Jack and his hunters emerging from the forest. Samneric are carrying a long wooden stake across their shoulders, with a dead, bloody pig swinging from it. The group is chanting, “Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Spill her blood.” Jack triumphantly clambers up the hillside to greet the other boys by the dead fire. Jack breathlessly tells Ralph about the hunt and his role as the one to deliver the fatal cut. Ralph remains furious and unmoved. The band of hunters gathers around, all giddily telling the story. Ralph simply says, “You let the fire go out.” Jack and the hunters are undisturbed and continue in their story. But Ralph repeats the sentence again and then finally burst out in anger, explaining about the ship. Piggy adds an accusation, aimed towards Jack. Jack, sobered and ashamed, lashes out at Piggy, hitting him in the head, knocking his glasses to the ground, and breaking one of the lenses. 

After the two scuffle, Jack finally admits his fault and apologizes, albeit in a glib fashion. With nothing left to say, Ralph mutters, “All right. Light the fire.” The boys start the fire again before butchering the pig and roasting its flesh over the flames. Ralph refrains from eating at first, not wishing to encourage Jack’s actions, but soon he gives in. Piggy yearns for meat, which Jack forbids; Simon, pityingly provides it to...

(The entire section is 1,163 words.)