Lord of the Flies by William Golding

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Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

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.

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...

(The entire section is 1,054 words.)