Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis
Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 860
Simon returns to consciousness in the clearing and says, “‘What else is there to do?’” The fly-swarmed pig head remains silent. Simon leaves, trudging through the jungle toward the mountain. Despite his wearied state, he climbs the rocks and discovers the parachutist, whose rotting body and foul breath make the boy retch. Simon untangles the lines of the parachute and, seeing the boys with their new fire down at the beach, hurries down to them to dispel the stories about the beast on the mountain.
At the camp below, Ralph and Piggy are bathing in the lagoon. The others have all left to join Jack’s post-hunt feast on the other side of the island. After some deliberation, Piggy suggests that they attend, too, “to make sure nothing happens.”
Ralph and Piggy approach the feast, finding the boys gathered by the spit-roasted pig. When the others notice Ralph and Piggy, they go silent. Then one of the boys runs at Piggy and burns him with a chunk of meat, causing everyone to burst into laughter. Jack, swelling with pride, orders for Ralph and Piggy to be given meat. He orders everyone to sit, and only Ralph and Piggy remain standing. Jack then asks who will join his new tribe. Ralph tremulously reminds the group the he is still chief. Jack and Ralph bicker over who possesses authority. When Ralph promises to blow the conch, Jack declares the conch meaningless.
A thunderstorm breaks out overhead, bringing rain; Ralph reminds the group that without the shelters, they’ll be completely exposed. Jack rouses the boys into a dancing circle, and Roger volunteers to play the part of the pig as the other boys chant and pretend to hunt him down. Fearing the storm, Ralph and Piggy join the circle.
As the intensity of the dance and the ferocity of the storm grow, Simon stumbles out of the forest, appearing only as a dark shape. He tries to tell the group about the parachutist on the hill, but he is absorbed by the circle of boys, who mistake him for the beast. They attack him, pushing him to the rocky edge and down onto the beach below, where they thrash and beat him to death. The group leaves Simon behind, noticing “how small a beast it was.” Suddenly, the parachutist’s body is swept up by the winds of the storm, dragged over the treetops toward the boys, who scatter in fright, and finally carried out to sea.
The ocean tide rises, bringing bioluminescent creatures who surround Simon while the water envelops his bloody body and begins to pull him out to sea.
The group has completely separated into two factions. There are those who follow Jack down a path of Dionysian delight, bloodlust, and savagery. On the other hand are those who follow Ralph in his efforts to sustain orderly behavior and return to civilization. The aims of the two leaders are strikingly different as well. Jack wants power and the rush of intense physical experiences like hunting and dancing. He wants to be idolized by the other boys, whom he issues orders to as if they were his servants. Chapter 9 shows the shift of power from Ralph’s forward-thinking agenda to Jack’s more primal agenda. Not only have the other boys already joined Jack, even Ralph and Piggy, beset with aimlessness, decide to join Jack’s feast. Ralph and Piggy, normally dedicated to pursuing the best course of action, are experiencing a loss of purpose. When Ralph fails to assert any authority over the feasting boys, this loss is accentuated.
Simon’s earlier confrontation with the pig’s head, named the Lord of the Flies, reveals the nature of the beast the boys have been searching for. The beast is not actual creature; rather, it is the impulse toward destruction and violence within each human. In his state of hallucination and metaphysical attunement, Simon manages to intuit this truth. Simon also uncovers the truth of the parachutist, learning that he is not the beast.
Notice how Golding employs a different prose style for Simon’s scenes. The writing becomes more sensorily rich and even poetic, giving readers a glimpse into Simon’s heightened state. Ultimately, Simon serves as both a mystical truth-teller and a martyr. In his efforts to impart his vision, he is consistently misunderstood and ostracized, and eventually the other boys butcher him without mercy or discrimination. The great irony is that Simon comes to the boys to warn them of the true nature of the beast and the boys respond by unleashing the beast on him, allowing the violence latent within them to leap out.
Part of the truth Simon intuits is that the beast—the violent and destructive aspect of nature—is an unavoidable part of the order of life. Everything that is born is eventually reabsorbed by the natural world in some way; the final passage of the chapter, in which Simon’s body is taken by the sea, shows this. The increasingly violent behavior of the boys reveals how civilization is unable to contain, separate, or avoid the destructive energies of nature.