Lord of the Flies Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis
by William Golding

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Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis


After the feast at the mountaintop, Ralph paces along the beach, preparing for the assembly he has asked the boys to gather for. He understands that there is a great deal at stake and that the boys will need to arrive at a consensus on how to conduct themselves. Ralph considers the place of thought and wisdom. He has never considered himself a thinker; but now, in his position as leader, he has begun to learn how to think, how to discern the best course of action. He sees these abilities in Piggy, though Piggy cannot convince or lead the other boys.

Ralph approaches the other boys, who have already gathered near the platform on a triangle of logs. Ralph blows the conch and begins the meeting, being sure to think through his words carefully, so as to address the most important topics. 

Ralph begins by reiterating the need for an assembly, which to him is “not for fun” but rather “to put things straight.” Ralph begins by listing several pressing issues: the boys have ceased to bring water to the camp, the shelters need more work, the littluns have begun to relieve themselves near the huts and orchards. Then Ralph turns to the most serious topic—the need to sustain the fire. Ralph frames the tending of the fire as a task of mortal importance. Pointing to the mountaintop, he says, “We’ve got to make smoke up there—or die.” Ralph then bans the starting of other fires, an unpopular decision that he reinforces by restating his chiefdom. 

Next, Ralph brings up the topic of the beast. To him, the question of the beast’s existence is not as crucial as the choice whether or not to be afraid. He inuits that the fear of the beast is perhaps the largest obstacle in the way of the boys’ happiness. Jack leaps up, takes the conch, and launches into an accusation of the littluns for spreading stories about the beast. He claims to have ranged all over the island, without spying any beast. Piggy agrees, adding that it would be unrealistic for a large predator to exist on such a small island. As Piggy puts it, “Life… is scientific,” and thus fear of anything ghostly is unneeded. He then calls forward any littluns who have seen the beast to speak.

A boy named Phil comes forward and describes a dream about seeing “twisty things in the trees” and then waking up and seeing something “big and horrid” moving in the trees. Ralph assures him this is not possible since nobody could have been out at night. Simon speaks up, stating that he had gone out into the jungle “to go to a place—a place I know.” Jack mocks him, Ralph admonishes him, and Simon sits down without another word.

Another boy, Percival, is called forward but shrinks in embarrassment. All the boys call for him and he speaks, weeping loudly and deeply, overwhelmed with sorrow and homesickness. When Jack asks him about the beast, Percival nearly faints, but whispers something to Jack before passing out: the beast comes out of the sea. The boys are stunned and begin to speculate about what this could mean. Maurice mentions the possibility of a giant squid, which Piggy refutes.

Amid the rowdy din of the assembly, Simon then offers another idea: “‘maybe there is a beast’” and “‘maybe it’s only us.’” However, Simon is unable to fully express his vision, and so he goes silent again, as do the rest of the boys. Piggy plucks up the conch again and reasserts his disbelief in ghosts. Jack then insults Piggy, leading Ralph to regret his decision to hold the assembly at night, when the thought of ghosts seems more real. Ralph calls for anyone who believes in ghosts to raise his hand, and he sees numerous hands rise in the descending darkness.

Piggy chastises the group for believing in ghosts, for acting like animals and savages, for “‘going off—hunting pigs—letting fires out—and now!’” Jack silences Piggy before turning his attention to Ralph, at whom he launches an unexpected volley of criticism: “‘And you shut up! Who are you,...

(The entire section is 1,189 words.)