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

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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Why can't the boys maintain a signal fire on the mountain in Lord of the Flies?

Quick answer:

The fire was a critical tool for survival on the island. It has been used for warmth and protection from wild animals. The boys also used the fire to signal a plane, but when they tried to keep it going, it burned out.

Expert Answers

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The idea of lighting a beacon fire in order to get the attention of passing ships was Ralph's. The first attempt at making this fire failed because it was poorly constructed, and Jack volunteers his hunters to oversee the next attempt at fire in shifts. Despite this, the fire soon spreads into the jungle, leaving the boys with a horrible feeling that one of their party has been killed in the flames.

By the time a passing ship is seen in Chapter 4, the fire has been abandoned and allowed to peter out, showing a lack of discipline on the part of those who were meant to be looking after it.

Essentially, the fire went out at the moment when it was most needed because some boys lacked the common sense to realize that keeping it going was their best shot at getting off the island and back to civilization.

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The boys in The Lord of the Flies can not keep the signal fire going, because it requires self-discipline and responsibility, both of which prove difficult for Jack's hunters. They take the time, using the conch, to make all sorts of rules for the island, When the discussion turns to making smoke signals to help with the rescue, all of the boys get so excited that they rush up to the top of the mountain, promptly forgetting the rules just made. Jack and his hunters take responsibility for keeping the fire going, but this task soon proves to be dull and time consuming. Jack abandons the fire for the thrill of the hunt.

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