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Chapter 12

The color-coded boxes under "Analysis & Themes" below make it easy to track the themes throughout the work. Each color corresponds to one of the themes explained in the Themes section of this LitChart.

Summary


Analysis & Themes


Ralph spies on Castle Rock from a hiding place in the forest. He thinks the boys have become savages and knows Jack will try to kill him.

Jack must destroy Ralph for savagery to prevail over civilization.

 

In the jungle, Ralph comes upon the skull of a pig hung on a spear staked into the ground. He punches it and the skull splits.

The Lord of the Flies is a hollow skull: its true power exists within men.

 

Ralph returns to spy on Castle Rock. Samneric are guarding the gates. He sneaks up to them. Frightened of Jack and Roger, Samneric beg Ralph to leave. But first they give him meat and tell him the tribe will hunt him tomorrow. Roger, they say, has sharpened a stick at both ends. Ralph doesn't understand what this means.

The sharpened stick recalls the stick on which Jack's tribe staked the pig head. The tribe plans to hunt Ralph, the last symbol of civilization, like a pig and stake his head as an offering to the beast.

 

Ralph tells Samneric he's going to hide in a nearby thicket so they can misdirect the tribe. As he runs off, he hears Samneric arguing with someone.

Ralph still trusts Samneric as friends, as rational civilized people.

 

The next morning Ralph hides in the thicket. But it's soon surrounded: Samneric have been tortured into revealing Ralph's location.

As a civilized person, Ralph can't understand the power of torture.

 

The tribe first rolls boulders at the thicket and then tries to storm it. They can't get in, so they set the thicket on fire. Ralph breaks from the thicket and runs into the jungle. The tribe follows, spreading out behind to search for him.

Technology and fire, formerly symbols of civilization, have become tools of savagery, used to kill.

 

As the jungle burns, the tribe chases Ralph from hiding place to hiding place. He has no time to think or plan: he can only run or hide or attack.

Hunted by the tribe like an animal, Ralph becomes an animal.

 

The tribe slowly surrounds him, until Ralph is forced onto the open beach, where he'll surely be killed. But in front of him stands an officer of the British Navy. The smoke from the burning jungle caught the ship's attention.

The fire the savages use to try to kill Ralph accomplishes what the signal fire couldn't—it attracts a rescue ship from civilization.

 

The savages trickle out of the forest behind Ralph. The officer asks who's in charge. Ralph says he is. Jack is quiet. Percival Wemys Madison tries and fails to say his own name.

With civilization restored, Ralph regains leadership. Percival's failure to recall his name shows the depth of the boys' savagery.

 

The officer asks if they're having a war, and jokingly asks if they've had any casualties. He's stunned when Ralph says two. The officer says he would have expected more from British boys. Ralph begins to cry, thinking of Piggy. All of the other boys begin to cry as well.

The British pride themselves on being civilized. But Ralph cries because he's learned first hand just how fragile civilization is.

 

The officer, uncomfortable at this outpouring of emotion, turns to look at the more comforting sight of his warship anchored out at sea.

Hypocritical civilization: the officer prefers his warship (savagery) to facing human emotion.