Summary and Analysis
Ralph, Jack, and Simon return from their reconnaissance in the late afternoon. Ralph blows the conch to call the other boys back to assembly and describes the results of the exploration. Jack interrupts almost immediately to declare the importance of an army for hunting pigs. So that only one person will speak at a time in the assembly, Ralph makes the conch rule: Only the boy holding the conch can speak, and only Ralph can interrupt the one who holds the conch. Thus, a process for order and civil discourse is established.
Piggy takes the conch so he can make the point that no one knows the boys' location, meaning that they may be on the island a long time. Ralph points out the bright side, the adventure inherent in their situation. At this point the group of littlest boys push a representative forward to describe the "beastie" he saw in the woods the night before; the older boys are quick to assure the littluns that there is no beastie. Ralph offers reassurance that they will definitely be rescued, mentioning that they'll need a signal fire to attract passing ships and planes. At the word fire, Jack immediately takes over the group, leading a charge up the mountain to start a fire. Ralph attempts to maintain order, but everyone rushes after Jack, so he follows, too. Piggy follows last, angry at the impulsive behavior.
On the mountaintop, the boys find a huge patch of dead wood and start a fire, using Piggy's eyeglasses. A massive bonfire that quickly burns itself out results. Jack volunteers his hunters to maintain a signal fire. Suddenly, in the midst of a complaint that no one will let him talk, Piggy sees that they've started a forest fire. He scolds the other boys for their lack of foresight in not first building shelters for the approaching night before racing up the mountain in defiance of Ralph. He further reprimands them for causing not only the waste of so much firewood but also the probable death of some of the littlest boys, since some of them had been playing in the area consumed by the rapidly moving fire. In the face of this news, Ralph attempts to first blame Piggy for not keeping better track of the little boys and then to convince himself and the others that the little ones might have just gone back to the platform. No one is convinced, but all are reluctant to face the reality.
This chapter continues with and develops the established in Chapter 1. Of particular importance to Ralph is his new experience with control over his electorate in the face of political and social dynamics. Initially the boys are quite impressed with him, as he finds he has a natural capacity for public speaking. His promise of rescue seems farfetched given the nuclear war that precipitated the boys' evacuation, but it is a promise he delivers well and believes himself. Even Piggy has faith in Ralph's ability to understand and communicate the issues, although he may be giving him too much credit. When Piggy grabs the conch and says "You're hindering Ralph. You're not letting him get to the most important thing," it's not clear from Ralph's hesitant response that he was in fact going to cover the likelihood that no one knows the boys' location.
Piggy's loyalty to Ralph stems from Piggy's logical mentality — it's logical to follow the leader's command and assume that he is in control of the situation. The rest of the boys are more emotional. They are quickly swayed from the chief they so respected moments before. Once on the mountain, they are very much impressed by Jack, with his seemingly generous offer to have his hunters take on the fire tending duties, just as they had been enamored of Ralph earlier.
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