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 does the Lord of the Flies look like when Ralph sees it in Chapter 12?

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Towards the beginning of chapter 12, Ralph is on his way back to Castle Rock when he unknowingly walks into Simon's secluded clearing in the forest, where the severed pig's head has decayed on the stake. Ralph is initially frightened by the pig's skull, which is now as white as the conch. As Ralph walks in front of the skull, he notices that it seems to "jeer at him cynically." Other than an "inquisitive ant" walking across the skull, it is completely lifeless, and Ralph continues to stare into its empty eye sockets. Golding then writes,

The skull regarded Ralph like one who knows all the answers and won’t tell (266).

After staring at the skull for an extended period of time, Ralph becomes filled with anger and rage and punches it off the stake. Ralph ends up breaking the pig's skull into two pieces before removing the stake from the ground and carrying it with him to Castle Rock. As Ralph leaves Simon's secluded spot in the forest, he carefully walks backward while keeping his eyes focused on the broken skull.

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When Ralph finds Simon's hiding place in Chapter 12, the pig's head is now a pig's skull, the flesh having been eaten away by the swarming flies. At first he sees "the thing as lifeless" but then when he looks levelly at it, it seems to grin and "hold his gaze masterfully and without effort." The skull then seems to "[regard] Ralph like one who knows all the answers and won't tell." Ralph senses that the skull is significant, but, unlike Simon, does not understand any further.

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