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Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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What does Ralph's action of removing his clothes and laughing imply about his character in Lord of the Flies?

Quick answer:

This quotation captures the essence of Ralph's personality prior to being elected leader. He is too innocent to fully grasp the gravity of his circumstances at first. He is carefree and too busy enjoying the island to worry about his dire situation. After he is elected leader, he behaves maturely and responsibly. The quotation also alludes to the Biblical story of the Fall of Man in the Book of Genesis.

Expert Answers

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The first character we are introduced to in William Golding's Lord of the Flies is Ralph. The novel opens with Ralph finding himself alone on an unfamiliar island after a plane crash. As he makes his way through the jungle, he meets Piggy and the two head for the beach.

The island is oppressively hot and once the boys are close to the water, Ralph removes all of his clothes and stands naked, admiring the water:

He undid the snake-clasp of his belt, lugged off his shorts and pants, and stood there naked, looking at the dazzling beach and the water.

This quotation is significant for several reasons. It captures the essence of Ralph's personality when we first meet him. He is laid-back, casual, and carefree. He does not appear perturbed by having survived a plane crash and being on an island with only one other boy for company. He does not seem at all anxious about his circumstances. He is delighted by the beauty of the island and appears to enjoy himself. He is uninterested when Piggy talks about the severity of their situation and suggests they locate the other boys and organize some semblance of a society. His unabashed nudity is a reminder of his young age and innocence. He manages to have fun and find beauty in the island despite his scary circumstances and uncertain future.

Ralph changes and matures as the novel progresses. After Ralph finds the conch and Piggy encourages him to blow into it to gather the other boys, he is elected leader and takes his responsibility seriously. He quickly goes to work building huts, organizing searches, and delegating tasks to the other boys. Reality forces Ralph to prematurely lose his innocence and assume an adult role as leader on the island.

The quotation is also significant because, along with the surrounding paragraphs, it creates a Biblical allusion to the Book of Genesis. The island is comparable to the Garden of Eden. Ralph's nudity and innocence echo the nudity and innocence of Adam and Eve. The "snake-clasp" of Ralph's belt and the green shadows evoke mental images of Satan, who appeared in the Garden of Eden as a serpent. Like Adam and Eve, Ralph loses his innocence.

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