Two separate illustrations of an animal head and a fire on a mountain

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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How does Lord of the Flies show that Ralph's life has not always been easy?

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It's only a subtle mention that comes as one of Ralph's extended thought monologues. We know already that Ralph's father is in the navy: and that information plays out in the passage.

Once, following his father from Chatham to Devonport, they had lived in a cottage on the edge of the moors. In the succession of houses that Ralph had known, this one stood out with particular clarity because after that house he had been sent away to school. Mummy had still been with them and Daddy had come home every day. Wild ponies came to the stone wall at the bottom of the garden, and it had snowed.

Daddy clearly does not come home every day now - there's a war on, and he's fighting in the navy. But Mummy is no longer with them. Has she left? Is she dead? We don't know. But it is the one time that the word 'Mummy' appears in Golding's novel. So there clearly is some issue here. But the passage goes on to make the point, not that Ralph's life was difficult, but, actually, that 'everything was all right':

And the books—they stood on the shelf by the bed, leaning together with always two or three laid flat on top because he had not bothered to put them back properly. They were dog-eared and scratched. There was the bright, shining one about Topsy and Mopsy that he never read because it was about two girls; there was the one about the magician which you read with a kind of tied-down terror, skipping page twenty-seven with the awful picture of the spider; there was a book about people who had dug things up, Egyptian things; there was The Boy’s Book of Trains, The Boy’s Book of Ships. Vividly they came before him; he could have reached up and touched them, could feel the weight and slow slide with which The Mammoth Book for Boys would come out and slither down... Everything was all right; everything was good-humored and friendly.

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How can you tell that for the character Ralph from Lord of the Flies, life hasn't always been easy?

The one specific clue that you get in the novel is that his father was a commander in the navy, and if you look into life of officers in the British Navy, even that of a commander isn't necessarily going to translate into a life of luxury.  Of course this would also suggest that his father would have maintained strict discipline in the home which can also be tough for a young boy, though for Ralph it has clearly left him with a respect for and even some need for a recognized authority and for rules and regulations.

Ralph is also clearly used to disappointment as he seems to even expect failure from the very beginning of his attempts to lead the boys.  This is particularly clear in comparison to Jack who seems to possess a very natural charisma that Ralph lacks.

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How can you tell that for the character Ralph from Lord of the Flies, life hasn't always been easy?

I'd say you can tell this by the differences between his reaction and Piggy's reaction to the idea that no one is coming to rescue them; he seems almost to expect it. I'd also say you can tell this simply by how harsh he can be, and how willing to shut out others' concerns. He simple goes for what he wants and leaves their concerns behind; he is not emotionally open. (This can be seen even in the novel's first pages.)

Greg

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