Summary and Analysis
Chapter 5 - Beast from Water
Ralph calls the assembly and reminds everyone of their agreement to maintain fresh water supplies, observe sanitation measures, build shelters, and keep the signal fire going. He then addresses the growing fear that he knows is beginning to overwhelm many of the boys by opening up the floor for discussion. Meanwhile, darkness is falling.
Jack takes the conch to point out that if a beast were on the island, he would have seen it during his hunting trips. Piggy adds that the field of psychology can be used as a tool to explain logically the experience of fear, thereby invalidating it. When a littlun comes forward to describe a large creature he saw in the jungle the night before, Simon reveals that it was only he, going to his special place. Percival suggests that a beast could arise from the sea, then falls asleep on the platform from the effort of his revelation.
Simon attempts to explain that the boys themselves, or something inherent in human nature, could be the beast they fear. His unsuccessful explanation leads to talk of ghosts, so Ralph holds a vote to see who fears ghosts. This vote sparks an outburst from the rational Piggy with a corresponding reaction from Jack. Now in open mutiny, Jack aggressively disputes Ralph's authority and leads the boys onto the beach in a sort of tribal dance. Remaining on the platform, Piggy and Simon urge Ralph to summon everyone back to the platform but he resists, his confidence shaken. Suddenly, the three boys are startled by an unearthly wail as Percival wakes up to find himself alone in the dark.
Chapter 3 addresses the issue of verbal communication and its place within a civilized society; this chapter implies that the primitive life leaves little mental energy for conceptual thought. Making his way to the platform, Ralph realizes "the wearisomeness of this life, where . . . a considerable part of one's waking life was spent watching one's feet." With so much energy devoted to survival, little time is left to devote to the kind of conceptual thought or abstract reasoning available to those sheltered by the institutions found in civilizations.
The two boys who retain the most capacity for conceptual thought are Piggy and Simon. Note that Piggy does not participate in the physical endeavors of the other boys; his physical activities are limited by his poor physical condition. Simon makes the effort to be alone in his hidden spot, giving himself time to meditate in a place where he doesn't have to concern himself with hunting, building, or the needs of others. In the hidden spot, Simon develops his understanding of human nature as the true beast to be feared.
The silence of Simon's hideaway allows him to reflect on what he sees and feels. In contrast, silence is a threat to the other boys. Consider Jack's feeling oppressed by the jungle's silence while hunting in Chapter 3. During the assembly in this chapter, the boys respond almost aggressively to Percival's silence when asked his name: "Tormented by the silence and the refusal the assembly broke into a chant. 'What's your name? What's your name?'" Chanting is associated with primitive societies, not part of the order or domesticity from whence the boys came or that Ralph is trying to establish.
Ralph expends much energy on the needs of others as well as on the physical rigors of building huts, and he begins to feel the effects: He is gradually losing both confidence that they will be rescued and his feeling that they are involved in an exciting experiment without adults. As a boy who represents the civilized, English society, he is neither as savage as Jack nor as cerebral as Piggy. He provides an example of how the leader in a community must strive to utilize the intellectual resources available in solving communal problems.
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