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Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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What do Roger's actions in chapter 4, when he throws stones at Henry, reveal about him?

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Roger 's actions in chapter four reveal that he is a cruel child and a bully.  His actions in the chapter are predatory as he watches Henry, waiting until the boy is alone.  Golding writes that Roger discreetly "looked along the beach" to see if the other boys were occupied...

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or paying any attention.  Satisfied that nobody was looking, Roger "stooped, picked up a stone, aimed, and threw it at Henry--threw it to miss" (62). 

Many readers probably have wondered why Roger throws the stones at Henry, but chooses to miss, and the text reveals that Roger chooses to throw the stones at Henry because he can.  He has already checked to see if any of the other boys are watching to avoid their censure, and then he throws the first stone.  Roger undoubtedly enjoys throwing the stones at this small boy, because next he "gathered a handful of stones and began to throw them" (62).  The first stone was like a test shot, to see if Henry would complain or tell the others or for Roger to see if he could get away with it.  When Roger sees that nothing has happened with his throwing of the first stone, he loads up his ammunition. 

Still, Roger does not actually hit Henry, because of the "taboo of the old life" (62).  Based on Roger's previous actions, it is more than likely that the boy had been in trouble for bullying before at school.  The narrator of the story reminds the reader:

Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law. Roger's arm was conditioned by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins" (63). 

This scene in chapter four between Roger and Henry should be viewed as Roger testing the limits of what he can or cannot do on the island.  He still feels the restraints of his old life, but his throwing the rocks at Henry revealed an important truth to him that day.  Nobody came and stopped him.  Next time, Roger will not aim to miss.

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