Summary and Analysis
Chapter 3 - Huts on the Beach
Jack, alone on a pig hunt, has clearly learned some tracking techniques. Frustrated that his day's hunt has ended yet again without a kill, he returns from the jungle to the area where Ralph and Simon work on building shelters.
Ralph expresses his frustration: Although all the boys have agreed to help build shelters, only Simon actually puts in the time and effort alongside Ralph. All the other boys are off playing, bathing, or hunting with Jack, even though Jack and his hunters have failed so far to produce meat. Ralph emphasizes the need for sturdy shelters, while Jack insists that he and the other boys need meat and tries to explain his compulsion to hunt. This difference — and the undercurrent of rancor — makes both boys uncomfortable given the relationship that had sprung up between them on the first day's exploring adventure.
Also in this chapter, a new side of Simon is revealed. He has a secret place in the jungle, a sort of hut formed by vines, boulders, and trees. After helping Ralph with the shelters all day, he sneaks off to this shelter, pausing first to help the littluns gather some choice fruit and making sure that he hasn't been followed.
In the first two chapters, Golding established regulated speech as a hallmark of civilization, as the boys set up the platform as a site for assemblies ordered by the conch. Ralph uses the conch to mimic the practice of "hands up," which all the boys know from school, the very place where literacy and verbal communication is systematically developed. In this chapter, Golding further develops this theme: Whereas verbal language is the sole property of civilization, silence is a property of nature. As Jack hunts in the "uncommunicative forest," he finds the "silence of the forest was more oppressive than the heat."
Ironically, when, in this chapter, Jack encounters Ralph at the shelters, Ralph comments on the uselessness of talk, railing about the abandoned resolutions to work everyone voices at the assemblies. "Meetings. Don't we love meetings?" Ralph says bitterly, confused by the assemblies' lack of efficacy. He had been counting on the meetings to provide both framework and impetus for focused action but has found that, of a crowd, only a few actually follow through. Ralph's vision of order is one most of the other boys share but lack the self-discipline to carry out. With language as his only tool, Ralph's authority lacks the threat possessed by parents and schoolmasters to enforce the rules and resolutions. Although he doesn't like building huts any better than any of the others, he is able to control his impulses and do what is necessary.
Jack could serve as an enforcer of rightful authority and necessary discipline, but he does not share Ralph's civilized vision. He is fast losing the traces of civilization and tuning into his animal self: crouched "dog-like" and reacting to a sudden bird cry with "a hiss of indrawn breath . . . ape-like among the tangle of trees." Jack seems to be losing his powers of rational thought, as well: Not only does he not share Ralph's priority on rescue, he "had to think for a moment before he could remember what rescue was." In trying to explain his feeling of being hunted while on the hunt, he finds verbalizing his experiences a great effort. The ability to express himself verbally is a skill necessary to civilization, not to hunting. His efforts go now to communicating with the nonverbal jungle, reading the signs left by the pigs. Where as Ralph can control his impulses for the good of the community, Jack puts all his focus on developing his impulses — in this case, his need to hunt.
Continued on next page...