Summary and Analysis Chapter 4


The link between Henry's activities and Jack's is further strengthened by the image of Henry's attempt to verbally control the transparent creatures — "He talked to them, urging them, ordering them" — which evokes the image of Jack in the previous chapter staring at the traces of the pig trail "as though he would force them to speak to him." Both boys try to force their verbal communication on nonverbal entities, an effort doomed to failure. Henry cherishes what little control he feels he has and does not mind that his orders go unheeded. His efforts at mastery over another are still in the play stage, although cruel nonetheless to the vulnerable Percival. Jack, on the other hand, has a much more difficult time tolerating resistance.

When the boys are forced to rebuild the fire in a different spot because Ralph silently refuses to move from the site of the original fire, Jack is furious. Ralph uses a means of control over the group that is nonverbal and nonviolent, ensuring that neither the rhetorical skills nor the physical superiority of the hunters can be used against him. In the face of passive resistance, Jack is powerless to stop Ralph from imposing his will on the group and asserting his authority.

As the biguns Roger and Maurice torment the littluns by destroying their sandcastles, they still hear in their heads the reprimanding adult voices of the civilization they left behind. Roger throws rocks at Henry, but he throws them so that they'll miss, surrounded as Henry is by "the protection of parents and school and policeman and the law. Roger's arm was conditioned by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins."

Even Jack still feels the influence of his former life, laughing while he describes the great amounts of blood spilled in the hunt but shuddering at the same time. His distaste is followed quickly by acceptance, however, as he wipes his bloody hands on his shorts. Golding implies a certain relief for Jack in the phrase "able at last to hit someone, [Jack] stuck his fist into Piggy's stomach." His entire life had been moderated by rules set by adults against hitting other children or physically acting out his aggression; now on the island, only the conditioning he received while still in civilization holds him back, and the imprint of that conditioning is fading fast from his character.

Most societies judge character to a great extent by how an individual behaves, how thoroughly a person has internalized the mores and ethos of civilized society. British culture, in particular, places a high value on maintaining civility even under adverse circumstances, the mask of good manners concealing strong emotions and impulses. Jack discovers the other side of a mask's power — the power to liberate — when he applies the clay and charcoal camouflage: "the mask was a thing on its own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness."

While the masks of polite society leash our evil nature, Jack's mask of colored clay unleashes it. The mask — or the transformation it invokes — frightens the hunter Bill, who initially laughs but then backs off into the jungle, and it compels the twins to abandon their fire tending duties, a symbol of how they are being drawn away from all of the civilized domesticity and communal hope for rescue represented by the fire. Jack refers to the mask as "dazzle paint," the camouflage used in warfare, clearly linking his new identity as a shameless killer with those adults fighting the war.

When the ship is sighted, Ralph remains calmly in place while the other boys present blunder around in excitement. Yet, when he realizes that there is no smoke signal for the ship to sight, he loses the calm that has so far characterized his behavior — the mask over his emotions. Now he rushes heedlessly up to mountain to the fire site, "savaging himself" on the bushes, reaching the top only to see that the fire is out and the ship is leaving.

Continued on next page...

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