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Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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How does Ralph's character evolve throughout Lord of the Flies?

Quick answer:

Ralph changes from a boy that believes in the goodness of humanity, to a boy that resorts to savagery to survive.

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I think that most readers would agree that Ralph begins the novel as a boy that is mentally stable, logical in his thinking, and is genuinely hopeful that he and the other boys can make things work just fine on the island while working toward rescue. He is hopeful that...

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their civilized natures will win out and everybody will happily work together for the good of the group. Unfortunately,Jack and Roger are on the island. They embrace the savagery that they can get away with. No adults around to enforce proper behavior suits them just fine, and they seek to govern through a policy of might makes right and fear. That eventually wins out over Ralph's leadership, and Ralph changes as his control slips away. Some readers claim that Ralph turns into a hopeless and fearful character that no longer believes in goodness without adult intervention; however, I might argue that he becomes just as savage as Jack. He was a part of Simon's death, and the following description of Ralph's movements and stabbing of another boy sounds quite savage.

Ralph launched himself like a cat; stabbed, snarling, with the spear, and the savage doubled up.

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At the beginning of the novel, Ralph has hope and is encouraged that the group of boys will be able to survive and possibly be rescued. Ralph accepts the position as the group's leader and attempts to create rules and prioritize necessary tasks such as maintaining the signal fire, building shelters, and collecting water. As the novel progresses, Ralph begins to lose control and Jack usurps power. Many of the boys decide to join Jack's tribe and descend into savagery. Ralph struggles to regain his confidence and challenge Jack's tyrannical leadership. When Ralph is unable to regain favor with the boys and realizes that Jack's goal is to kill him, Ralph fights to survive. By the end of the novel, Ralph runs for his life as Jack and his tribe of savages hunt him through the forest. Fortunately, Ralph is saved when he runs into a Naval officer who is standing on the beach. At the end of the novel, Ralph loses all hope in humanity and cries for his friends who have lost their life.

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What are the differences if you compare Ralph in the beginning of the story, with Ralph at the end of the story?

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What are the differences if you compare Ralph in the beginning of the story, with Ralph at the end of the story?

To answer this question you need to consider the allegorical aspects of this novel, and what each of the main characters represent. It is clear that at the beginning of the novel Jack represents the forces of civilisation, order and control. He is elected leader of the boys and is dedicated to maintaining control and being involved in meaningful action to achieve this goal. His example, in building huts for example whilst the other boys play and avoid work, means that he is respected and thought of highly by the boys. However, as the novel progresses, the forces of savagery, represented by Jack, become greater, and finally all the boys except Ralph and Piggy join Jack and his hunters.

Through the course of the novel, Ralph, like Simon, comes to understand that savagery is something that dwells within all of the boys. Although at the beginning of the novel Ralph is bewildered at Jack's bloodlust, we can see that Ralph comes to understand this personally when he hunts a boar and joins in the dancing afterwards, and even participates in the murder of Simon. Despite his best intentions, he is forced to realise that his savage instinct is part of him, as it is an essential characteristic of mankind. This epiphany or realisation plunges him into despair for a while, but it also enables him to cast down the Lord of the Flies at the end of the novel. At the end of the story, ironically, although Jack is rescued by the naval officer, his tears indicate that it is his innocence that has been lost irrevocably through the knowledge he has gained about the essential human condition.  

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