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, what is the significance of Chapter 4, "Painted Faces and Long Hair"?

Quick answer:

In "Lord of the Flies", Chapter 4, "Painted Faces and Long Hair", signifies the boys' descent into savagery. The painted faces and long hair reflect their abandonment of civilization, as they adopt barbaric appearances and behaviors. The chapter showcases Jack's growing obsession with hunting and his disregard for maintaining the signal fire, leading to a missed rescue opportunity. It also depicts the boys' increasing violence, symbolized by the destruction of the littluns' sandcastles.

Expert Answers

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

Chapter 4 is entitled "Painted Faces and Long Hair," which are powerful symbols that represent the boys' gradual decline into savagery as the hunters paint their faces like barbarians and allow their hair to grow long and unkempt. The masks that Jack and his hunters wear liberate them and are the outward manifestations of their inherently savage nature. Their long hair is another sign of their increasing barbaric personalities and distance from civilization. After being removed from civilization for an extended period of time, the boys' appearance corresponds to their increasingly savage behavior. When Jack initially paints his face, Golding writes,

He [Jack] capered toward Bill, and the mask was a thing on its own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness (89).

Jack's mask allows him to distance himself from civilization and gives him the freedom to behave like a violent, bloodthirsty savage.

Golding also illustrates how the boys are becoming increasingly savage by depicting their insensitive personalities as Roger and Maurice proceed to destroy the littluns' sandcastles on the beach. In chapter 4, Jack also becomes more obsessed with hunting and allows his hunters to neglect their duties maintaining the signal fire, which results in the boys missing a rare opportunity to be rescued when a ship passes. Overall, the chapter's title indicates two powerful symbols that represent the boys' increasingly savage behavior on the uninhabited island.

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

This chapter title highlights two symbols that concisely indicate the development of the plot in this chapter. Painted faces and long hair signify the abandonment of the civilization the boys have come from and their gradual move towards violence and savagery. The chapter contains one of the first hints of mindless violence between the boys themselves, in the destruction of the sand castle. It shows the rising power of Jack and his obsession with hunting, which involves him painting his face until he appears inhuman. More ominously, the hunting causes the boys to neglect the signal fire and miss a chance to go back to civilization. This indicates that some at least of the boys may actually have begun to prefer the wild, free, savage life to their former civilized constraints.

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
Approved by eNotes Editorial