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

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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What three adjectives describe Ralph in Lord of the Flies?

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Ralph is a decent, rational, and outgoing English boy. He can also be described as genuine, compassionate, and imperfect.

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Ralph is hard-working, brave, and principled.

Ralph and Simon are the only boys who show a real commitment to building shelter on the island. Ralph understands that having a shelter is more important than hunting and commits himself to the task, despite being irritated that nobody else seems interested in helping. He also applies his work ethic to trying to convince the other boys of the need to keep the signal fire going.

Ralph shows his lack of fear early on the in the novel, when he asserts his role as a leader among the other boys. I would argue that the ultimate example of Ralph's bravery is when the boys reach Castle Rock after Samneric believe they have spotted the beast. Ralph is there, together with Jack and a group of "silent hunters." Jack is convinced that the beast must be here, because he has explored everywhere else. Despite his fear, Ralph shows his bravery by "[forcing] his feet to move until they had carried him out onto the neck of land."

Although Ralph is a participant in Simon's murder, he is later appalled with himself, and takes responsibility for being a part of what became a dance of death. In stark contrast to Jack, Ralph does not lose his humanity but holds on to the hope of rescue, and he wants nothing more than to return to civilization.

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Decent: Ralph is the quintessential decent English schoolboy. He is athletic, responsible, and yet he knows how to enjoy life. He almost immediately dives into the lagoon when he and Piggy find it and enjoys swimming and blowing jets of water in the air. He tries to make it up to Jack when he realizes he is upset over not being chosen leader by immediately putting him in charge of the choir and allowing Jack to turn them into hunters. Ralph also shows concern for the younger boys and is determined to build shelters because he knows they are frightened. He is the kind of person who wants what is best for the group as a whole and pursues his goals honestly, without an underlying agenda or any lust for personal power. When he does participate in killing Simon, he feels guilt and remorse.

Rational: Ralph is also rational and reasonable. He is quite willing, even if he doesn't like it, to sacrifice present pleasure for future gain, such as by tending the fire that might lead a rescue ship to the island. He wants the new society they are developing on the island to run on principles of fairness and equality, as symbolized by the conch.

Outgoing: Ralph genuinely likes and tries to get along with other boys, from Piggy to Jack to Simon to the littluns. This makes him a natural leader: he is willing, unlike Jack, to consult with others and work cooperatively. At first, he and Jack work on hunting together, while at the same time Ralph works with Simon on building huts, and with Piggy on general planning.

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Ralph is a compassionate boy who genuinely cares about the well-being of others and thinks outside of himself as he struggles to establish a civil society. Unlike Jack, Ralph is concerned about the littluns and is protective of Piggy. He does not purposely harm anyone and demonstrates compassion by sympathizing with the other boys on the island.

Ralph is also a civilized, rational individual who is opposed to Jack's idea of developing a completely savage environment. Ralph desperately wishes to establish a civil society, which is founded on rules and responsibilities. His main goal is to create a comfortable environment and to increase their chances of being rescued by maintaining the signal fire. Ralph also establishes rules like holding the conch in order to build a democratic society, and he believes that organization and structure are vital to their success.

Ralph is a conflicted individual, who struggles to decide what course of action to take in regards to controlling Jack and creating a civil environment. Ralph also experiences an internal conflict regarding whether or not to remain the leader of their group. There are several moments when Ralph expresses his desire to quit being chief, but Piggy and Simon encourage him to remain strong. Ralph also experiences conflicting feelings as he begins to forget the most important aspects of establishing a civil society.

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Sensible is a good start.

I would also call Ralph genuine. He has a sincere concern for all the boys that Jack would do well to emulate or copy. He previous ability as a leader of the crew demonstrates this concern, however unfortunately the savagery of the island means this civilized approach won't be as effective.

Another adjective that might clearly describe him might be imperfect. Although he might have the intellect to put together a great idea, he struggles to articulate or clearly express his ideas to the group. Thus, he can't really be the leader that he could have been.

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What are adjectives that can describe Ralph in Lord of the Flies?

That's a great question. If you add his cumulative list of descriptors together, Ralph doesn't make an excellent leader on paper. And perhaps he isn't an excellent leader at all, and that is one of the reasons the boys' society crumbles near the end. But he is one of the best choices among the group. Here are some words I'd use to describe Ralph:

Advisable: Unlike Jack, who is fairly impossible to reason with, Ralph is willing to consider wise counsel, especially from Piggy and Simon.

Insulting: Especially at the beginning of the book, Ralph arrogantly insults the boy who tries to help him most (Piggy), calling him "fatty" and ridiculing him in front of the group.

Strong-willed: Ralph isn't afraid of a challenge and doesn't mind reminding Jack who is in charge. Both physically and verbally, Ralph doesn't back down easily.

Focused: Whether it's the signal fire, building shelters, organizing duties, or keeping up with "littluns," Ralph is fairly focused on the important tasks that need to be done and reminds the group about their need for rescue--not merely continued survival on the island.

Most of the boys begin to gravitate toward Jack near the end of the book, and Ralph himself gets caught up in the blood thirst, so he's not a perfect leader by any means. However, without any adults around and in the absence of any sort of order, he does better than most in trying to keep the group focused on the most worthwhile efforts.

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What are adjectives that can describe Ralph in Lord of the Flies?

I believe that Ralph changes drastically during his stay on the island. He does not start out as mature--in fact, every time he becomes excited about being alone on a "good island" without adult supervision, he can't even find the words to express himself, so he stands on his head to express his enthusiasm, which is quite immature.

He is certainly not accepting and tolerant at the beginning, either, as he appears to be quite prejudicial against the fat boy with thick specs named "Piggy." He tries to sneak away from Piggy at first, but then, realizing that Piggy will not be left behind, Ralph grudgingly puts up with his company. After Piggy asks Ralph not to tell the others of his humiliating nickname, Ralph goes right ahead and tells them anyway (again displaying the immaturity he arrives with on the island). Noble at this point is out of the question.

Ralph tries to be somewhat responsible up to a point, but he's not that interested in responsibility--that is Piggy's forte. A list is supposed to be made of all the kids on the island, but it does not come to fruition. Then there is the fire on the mountain, and the boy with the mulberry birthmark is killed--and they can only account for his death because of the noticeable birthmark. This is when Ralph takes a more serious turn.

As the other kids lose their sense of civilization, Ralph tries more and more to be responsible and noble, even though he, too, at times, lapses, such as in the killing of Simon.

The traitorous and violent turn that Jack takes makes Ralph very fearful for the boys who are still on his side and for himself, especially at the end when he is being hunted. As they are rescued, this fear has its catharsis in the weeping that Ralph is finally able to give in to.

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What are adjectives that can describe Ralph in Lord of the Flies?








accepting and tolerant



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In Lord of the Flies, what is a good adjective to describe Ralph towards the end of this novel?

Sensible.  In Chapter 11, Ralph tries desperately to start the fire that has gone out.  When he approaches Jack to ask him to return Piggy's glasses, he tries to be reasonable, but Jack goads him and Ralph attacks Jack.  However, Piggy grabs the conch and the others quiet down.  Piggy asks,

Which is better--to be a pack of Indians like you or to be sensible like Ralph?...Which is better--to have rules and agree, or to hunt and kill?

At one point Ralph has reflected that Piggy is the thinker and the most rational of all, and he admires Piggy's devotion to the rules of society because he knows these are what hold together the fabric of civilization.  Even though Ralph loses control of the hunters, it is he always who insists upon the smoke of the fire being essential to the boys' rescue.

In the final chapter, when the naval officer arrives and saves Ralph from the harm intenede him by Jack and the others  "Cos I had some sense," it is Ralph who identifies himself as the one in charge, and he tries to explain that the boys cooperated well at first. Then, he thinks of the loss of the beauty of the island and the innocence of the boys,

Ralph wept for the loss of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.

Sensibly, Ralph realizes what has been lost by all the boys.  Reflecting as none of the others have, Ralph sees that the rationality of Piggy is the only way for the boys to have survived.



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