Summary and Analysis Chapter 12



While the tribe feasts inside Castle Rock, Ralph makes his way back to the platform. Once there, he is reluctant to spend the night alone in the shelter and decides to return to Jack's end of the island to try reasoning with them again. On the way, he encounters the pig's skull that had spoken to Simon. Finding it eerily life-like and knowing, he knocks it to the ground and takes the stake as a weapon.

Back at Castle Rock, he sees that Samneric are on watch, having been forced to join the tribe. He approaches them cautiously, hoping to win back their loyalty. They tell him of the manhunt planned for the next day and give him some meat. Someone from the tribe hears them talking to Ralph and punishes them.

Ralph finds a place to sleep for the night. The next morning, his hiding place, a dense thicket, is betrayed by Samneric. The tribe is unsuccessful at reaching him in the thicket, so they flush him out by rolling boulders into it and setting it on fire. Once Ralph is on the run, the tribe follows him, communicating with each other with an ululating cry.

Ralph finds another impenetrable thicket to hide in but is discovered there as well. Now the fire has spread across the island so that he has to outrun the savages and the fire. He makes it to the beach and falls at the feet of a newly arrived British naval officer, whose ship had been attracted by the smoke from the huge fire. The officer confirms that his ship will take them off the island. Ralph breaks into sobs, weeping for all he has lost.


Watching the savages retreat, Ralph tries to identify them as individuals and guesses one to be Bill. Then he realizes that, in fact, "this was not Bill" and he's right: Once divorced from his previously civilized self in appearance, behavior, and values, the individual who was Bill is gone. In the previous chapter, after Jack throws a spear with deadly intention at Ralph, Golding stops using Jack's name and refers to him as "the chief." The boy named Jack has been totally replaced with a primal entity, the personification of the beast's lust for power and the rejection of the civilizing forces represented by Ralph.

Even after the attack, Ralph so craves human companionship — the devil he knows — that he returns to Castle Rock to reason with Jack's tribe again on the next day, relying on their "daylight sanity." "Daylight sanity" is another term for common sense; Piggy tells Ralph in Chapter 8 that lack of common sense is the source of all the trouble on the island. At the time, Piggy referred to practicality, or a sound judgement of the actions they would need to take to attract a rescue ship and co-exist with some amount of civility.

Common sense could also be understood, however, as communal sentiment, a shared sensibility of what's important and what's allowed. Ralph "knew he was an outcast. @'Cos I had some sense,'" he tells himself — not just common sense but a sense of his identity as a civilized person, a sense of the particular morality that had governed the boys' culture back home. When Jack threw the spear at Ralph, Jack made him an outcast, disallowing his easy assimilation into the group even if he had wanted to forsake rescue in favor of hunting. When Ralph tries to reason with the newly tribal twins and gain an understanding of Jack's hatred of him, Eric says "Never mind what's sense. That's gone." Jack's tribe lacks sense in terms of logically justifiable attitudes and behaviors.

In response to his desperate situation, bereft of any companion and the conch as well, Ralph reverts to a childish state. He "whimpered and yawned like a littlun" when facing the coming night with its attendant fears. Later, as he is hunted, he reverts back not in time but in character to his primal self, squatting in a thicket, baring his teeth, and snarling. Becoming the prey brings out the animal survival instincts coupled with innate human intellect in him: He seeks a "lair" in which to spend the night and thinks ahead to his hiding place the next day. He prepares himself to poke whoever discovers him with his spear so that the manhunter "would be stuck, squealing like a pig." Acting purely out of the fundamental drive for survival, he attacks two savages who stand between him and escape, and wounds a third from his hiding place. The members of Jack's tribe have ceased to be human for him; he thinks of them as "those striped and inimical creatures." Hunting has become their identity rather than their activity. In contrast, Ralph still thinks sensibly even when on the run: when the forest fire burns the fruit trees, he curses the tribe for failing to think ahead when they set the fire: "Fools! . . . what would they eat tomorrow?"

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