Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

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Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1054

Summary

The boys confer on the beach. Piggy can’t believe that Ralph, Jack, and Roger actually saw the beast. Ralph is unsure how they ought to proceed, given that the beast is squatting in the place they want to make a signal fire. When Jack suggests that his hunters might confront it, Ralph denigrates them as mere “Boys armed with sticks.” This angers Jack, who uses the conch to call a meeting.

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Ralph first tries to set the agenda of the meeting, but Jack interrupts him. Jack claims that because he blew the conch, he should run the meeting. Ralph begrudgingly relents. First, Jack describes their encounter with the beast. He compares the beast to a hunter. Then, Jack attacks Ralph’s leadership. He tells the other boys that Ralph is a coward, and that he ran away when they saw the beast. He says Ralph is like Piggy, and that he doesn’t believe Ralph should be leader. He calls on the others to vote Ralph out of his position of authority. When no one votes to unseat Ralph, Jack is furious and humiliated. He cries and says, “I won’t play any longer. Not with you.” He says anyone who wants to hunt should join him, and he leaves.

Everyone is surprised by Jack’s departure, though Piggy says they can do without Jack. The meeting continues. Hesitantly, Simon suggests they go up the mountain again to confront the beast, which sends a chill through the assembly. Piggy finds the idea absurd and suggests instead that they make their signal fire on the beach. The boys agree over this idea, and they set to work gathering wood for the fire.

They work cheerfully, and when they build up a large fire the littluns dance and the mood is festive. However, they soon notice that there are a number of biguns missing from the group. Most of the older boys have left to join Jack without telling anyone. Ralph and Piggy try to make the best of the situation, saying they can “do without ’em,” and that they were always causing trouble anyways. They also notice that Simon is missing, and wonder if he’s climbing the mountain. In fact, he is lying in the forest, watching butterflies.

Meanwhile, Jack speaks gruffly to his new crew. He says he’ll be the chief. He says they won’t worry about the beast; they’ll hunt and leave some meat for the beast to appease it. He says they may go to the castle rock later, but for now they’ll host a feast in order to draw more biguns away from Ralph and the conch. They go out and brutally kill a nursing sow. But they realize they don’t have fire to cook it, and Jack decides they’ll paint themselves and raid the other group to attain fire. They put the head of the pig on a stake as a a gift for the beast.

After the group leaves, it's revealed that Simon has been hiding in his special place, witnessing the killing and beheading of the pig. Having already been hot and thirsty, Simon becomes dazed and disgusted. He has a hallucination in which the pig’s head on the stake seems to talk to him. It refers to itself as the “Lord of the Flies.” 

With paint on their skin and few clothes, Jack and his boys confront Ralph’s group on the beach in order to steal their fire. Jack announces that his group is having fun and feasting. He invites the Ralph’s group to a feast that night in an effort to persuade boys to join his crew. When he leaves, Ralph reiterates the importance of the signal fire, and the group speaks longingly of meat.

The pig’s head tells Simon that he is the beast. He calls Simon a silly boy and says, “‘You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you. Close close close.’” Simon, who is epileptic, knows that “one of his times was coming on.” The Lord of the Flies menaces him, warning, “‘We’re going to have fun on this island. Understand?’” The chapter ends with Simon staring into the darkness of its mouth and losing consciousness.

Analysis

Several significant events happen in this chapter, the first of which is Jack's splitting the boys into two groups. Having failed to get the boys to vote Ralph out of authority, Jack cries and leaves the group, saying he won't play with them anymore. This statement represents the primary difference between the two factions: Ralph's group of fire makers know they are not playing and must be responsible; Jack's group of hunters want to play, enjoy themselves, and not worry about rescue.

Ralph's group struggles after most of the boys quickly leave to join Jack's group. Ralph continues to try and lead, but without Piggy's help he has difficulty expressing the need for the signal fire. Both Ralph and Piggy still cling to the conch as a symbol of authority and order, though they both have been affected by Jack's perspective: Ralph has experienced the thrill of hunting and Piggy has been cruel to Simon, the only boy that has shown him any kindness.

Having left Ralph's group, Jack is free to assume the mantle of chief. His goals are notably hedonistic: the boys will hunt and feast. He makes no mention of rescue nor the signal fire. Roger reveals himself to be truly sadistic. With the killing and mutilating of the sow, it becomes clear that Roger enjoys inflicting pain on others, even more so than Jack.

Perhaps the most significant event in this chapter is the brutal killing of the nursing sow, the mounting of its head on a stick, and Simon's conversation with it. In Simon’s dazed perception, the head is referred to as the "Lord of the Flies," a name for the devil Beelzebub. The Lord of the Flies confirms what Simon has already suspected: there is no beast other than the beast within the boys. This statement connects to Simon's earlier claim in chapter five about the beast: “‘maybe it's only us.’” Simon's experience with the head serves as the defining moment for one of the novel's main themes: that darkness exists within everyone.

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