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

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

Start Free Trial

In Lord of the Flies, how do Jack and Ralph respond to questions about the beast?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The first mention of the beast occurs in chapter two during the afternoon meeting. Ralph and Jack both, each in his own way, mention the importance of rules whilst Piggy makes everyone aware that nobody knows where they are. Ralph then comforts them by saying that they are on a good island since there is enough food. It is then that the boy with mulberry-colored birthmark whispers to Piggy about the 'snake-thing' which he later calls a 'beastie.' The boy mentions that it was 'ever so big' and that he had seen in the woods.

Ralph is the first to respond:

“You couldn’t have a beastie, a snake-thing, on an island this size,” Ralph explained kindly. “You only get them in big countries, like Africa, or India.”

When the boy mentions to Piggy that he had seen it in the dark, Ralph suggests that he then could not have seen it. When the boy insists, Ralph mentions that it must have been a dream. He does not, however, find much agreement in the faces of especially the younger boys, although the older ones agree. Ralph also suggests that the boy must have had a nightmare, a statement which drew a similar response.

The boy, though, insists that the beastie will come that night. Ralph's response is to insist that there is no beast. Ralph does not know what more to say and is both amused and exasperated at the same time. It is clear that he wishes to deal with the issue by just denying the boy's fears, which indicates his immaturity and naivety.

At this point, Jack grabbed the conch and declared:

“Ralph’s right of course. There isn’t a snake-thing. But if there was a snake we’d hunt it and kill it. We’re going to hunt pigs to get meat for everybody. And we’ll look for the snake too–”

At this, Ralph shouts that there isn't a snake and Jack asserts that they will make sure when they go hunting. Ralph is annoyed and has no idea of how to respond. The only thing he can do is to, once again, deny its existence. He asserts his conviction a third time, with more emphasis:

“But I tell you there isn’t a beast!”

At this, there is silence. Ralph then changes the subject and speaks about having fun and being rescued. He then focuses the boys attention on the idea of rescue and how they can assist in their discovery. The beast is temporarily forgotten.

Talk about the beast recurs in chapter five when Ralph mentions that things seemed to be breaking up and that there was talk about fear and that 'people were getting frightened.' He mentions:

“But that’s littluns’ talk. We’ll get that straight. So the last part, the bit we can all talk about, is kind of deciding on the fear.”

Ralph wants everyone to be happy and focus on important stuff, not talk about bogies and things which frighten them - they have to decide what it is that makes them so afraid. Jack takes up the conch and says the following:

“So this is a meeting to find out what’s what. I’ll tell you what’s what. You littluns started all this, with the fear talk. Beasts! Where from? Of course we’re frightened sometimes but we put up with being frightened. Only Ralph says you scream in the night. What does that mean but nightmares? Anyway, you don’t hunt or build or help—you’re a lot of cry-babies and sissies. That’s what. And as for the fear—you’ll have to put up with that like the rest of us.”

It is clear that Jack takes an aggressive stance on the issue and feels that the boys who are affected by their fear are a bunch of cry babies. He then mentions an animal and then declares that he is a hunter who has been all around the island and that he had not seen an animal or beast anywhere. He insists that he would have seen it if it were there.

In the end, since the issue could not be entirely resolved and Sam n' Eric had declared that they had seen the beast at the top of the mountain, it is decided to find it. All the older boys then set out to explore the island and suss it out. Piggy is left behind with the littluns.

What the issue about the beast makes clear is the difference in approach by Ralph and Jack. Ralph wishes to rationalise the issue by disclaiming the existence of such a creature - it is only a figment of the boys' imaginations and not real. Jack, conversely, has a much more gung-ho and practical approach. Any threat to their safety must be hunted down and destroyed. His attitude here predicts his actions later, when he turns against Ralph and, with his hunters, seeks him out to be rid of him.


Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the novel Lord of the Flies, how do Ralph and Jack respond to the "beast"?

Ralph and Jack both respond to the beast differently throughout the novel. Ralph is skeptical of the beast when he first hears about it from the littluns. He holds an assembly to pragmatically respond to the issue of identifying the beast and tries his best to understand it. However, when Samneric claim that they witnessed the beast firsthand, Ralph becomes worried and reluctantly follows Jack on a hunting expedition in search of the beast.

Similar to Ralph, Jack does not initially believe that a beast exists. However, when Jack mistakes the dead paratrooper for the beast, he becomes frightened. Jack sees that the boys are terrified of the beast and uses their fear to his advantage. Jack begins to manipulate his hunters into carrying out rituals and sacrificing a pig's head to appease the beast. He elevates his position of power and importance by claiming that he will protect his hunters from the beast.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the novel Lord of the Flies, how do Ralph and Jack respond to the "beast"?

Ralph and Jack respond differently to the "beast".  Ralph, when he first hears of a beast from the air, the dead parachutist, in chapter 6, is fearful.  Sam and Eric have described what they thought they saw and their fear is contagious. Ralph fear is logical - a beast could hurt them.  Ralph realized that the beasts that the young boys mentioned earlier were not real beasts; they were just manifestations of the boys' imaginations.  Then, later, in the last chapter, when he encounters the pig's head on the stick, he comes to realize what Simon and Piggy knew much earlier, that the beast was in each of them, not in any outside force or entity.  Jack also knew the littluns' talk of beasts was just imagination talking in the early chapters.  He is excited though when he hears Sam and Eric describe what they've seen.  He wants to hunt it down.   Jack also realizes that the beast, and the fear it invokes, could prove useful to him.  He sees it as a tool he can use to his advantage.  Later, when he performs the sacrificial ritual of putting the dead pig's head on the stick as an offering to the beast, he shows that he has come to believe in the beast himself.  But, unlike Ralph, Jack feels he can control the beast by making sacrifices to it.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Lord of the Flies, how do Ralph and Jack respond to the idea that there is a "beast" on the island?

In Lord of the Flies, the initial feelings of "enchantment" and the confidence that Ralph's father, a Navy commander, will come and rescue the boys, is slowly overtaken by fear and feelings of dread as the shadows intensify the boys' paranoia and their belief in the existence of a "snake-thing," "a beastie." Ralph and Jack have two very different approaches which often conflict with each other. This causes confusion amongst the boys and weakens Ralph's position as the designated chief because Jack constantly undermines his authority, often showing little respect for the conch and what it represents.

In chapter two, the existence of a beast-like creature is first mentioned. With the conch in hand, Ralph is able to subdue the initial restlessness of the boys by explaining that what the "littlun" had was a nightmare because such creatures only exist on big islands or places like Africa or India. The boys look to Ralph, as chief, for reassurance that this beast will not return. Ralph is insistent that it will not return because there is no beast to begin with. Ralph is amused but also a little impatient and Jack, in support of Ralph, grabs the conch so he too can express his opinion.   

However, Jack's approach is different from Ralph's and this irritates Ralph because he feels that it prompts more questions than answers. Jack confirms that there is no beast but he adds that, if there were, hunting it would be an option and, of course, killing it. As Jack will be hunting pigs, he assures the boys that he could also hunt for the "snake too," just to be sure. Ralph tries to reaffirm his stand against the very existence of the beast. There is no response from the boys and Ralph changes the subject. Confidence is restored with talk of fire and rescue but still the boys are impulsive and chase off after Jack, a foreshadowing of what will follow. 

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Lord of the Flies, how do Ralph, Simon, Piggy and Jack each deal with the beast?

Jack deals with the beast by offering it part of each of his kills and putting the head of the pig on the stick as a sacrificial offering to the beast. He does this in chapter 8 after he has broken away from Ralph and his tribe of boys. Ralph tried to tell the little boys in chapter 5 that they were just having nightmares and there was no beast.  Then he ridiculously tried to have a vote to determine whether or not they were, as a group, going to believe in the existence of a beast.  Secretly, Ralph fears there may be some entity on the island that is a beast of sorts.  Piggy rationalizes by saying, "Life is scientific....there isn't no beast - not with claws and all that,...".  He is the voice of intellect in the novel and he knows that it is irrational and illogical for their to be a beast. Simon also, in chapter 5, voices doubt about the beast. He understands, but can't articulate yet, that the real source of evil on the island is not some physical entity that is non-human.  He knows that the only problem on the island is the boys themselves.  He knows that the beast is really just the evil inside of each one of them.  He goes off by himself to his secluded place and, while in one of his seizure-induced trances, has a metaphysical discussion with the "beast".  He also comes to realize at this time that if the boys would all acknowledge the real source of evil, that they could overcome it.  He is killed though while trying to convey this knowledge.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on