Summary and Analysis Chapter 8



Ralph angers Jack by telling Piggy that even Jack would hide if the beast attacked them. In retaliation, Jack attempts his most serious mutiny yet, trying to convince the other boys to impeach Ralph. When the boys refuse to openly vote against Ralph, Jack announces his defection and runs off into the forest.

Simon suggests they all go face whatever's on the mountain, but no one wants to go. Piggy, glad that Jack is gone, suggests they build a signal fire on the beach so that they won't have to go up the mountain. While everyone gathers wood, most of the biguns creep away to join Jack. Simon disappears as well, going to his hidden spot in the forest to rest after his unsuccessful address to the group. Piggy starts the fire with his glasses.

Meanwhile Jack leads another successful hunt, attacking and killing a nursing sow and then impaling her head on a stick as an offering to the beast, coincidentally in full view of the spot where Simon sits concealed. Simon hallucinates, thinking that the head is talking to him, until he loses consciousness.

To get fire for a pig roast, Jack stages a theft of some burning branches from the beach fire and invites Ralph's group to the roast in an attempt to recruit them to join his tribe. Ralph tries to rally his group to his side but loses his train of thought when he tries to remember the importance of being rescued, causing them to doubt him briefly.


Ralph speaks realistically when he tells Piggy that even Jack would hide if the beast attacked; after all, the night before Jack had been as terrified as the other two boys when he saw the dead paratrooper. Jack cannot accept this realistic view of himself. In defense, he offers to the group a rationale for impeaching Ralph — "He'd never have got us meat," as if hunting skills make for an effective leader. Noting that "He isn't a prefect and we don't know anything about him" opens up speculation about Ralph's qualifications as a leader.

Jack further condemns Ralph as one who talks rather than one who gets results, but Ralph himself has long ago lost patience with talk, finding it an ineffective and inappropriate tool for their situation. His position on the usefulness of rhetoric is clear in his response to Jack's assembly. "'Talk,' said Ralph bitterly, 'Talk, talk, talk.'"

Reluctant to vote openly against Ralph, the boys sneak off to join Jack and return only when masked by their new tribal war paint, which has a liberating effect. Jack so loses himself in this liberation that, symbolizing the casting off of all social and civil encumbrances, he abandons clothing altogether, wearing only his paint and his knife when he presents his invitation to Ralph's group. "He was safe from shame or self-consciousness behind the mask of his paint."

Jack strives to be a chief in some grand fashion seen in a book or a movie, evidenced by the bizarrely formal announcement and flourish he makes Maurice and Robert perform once he has spoken to Ralph's group. Little does he realize he himself is fulfilling the role of the beast. Wrapped up in the caveman-like activities of hunting, face-painting, and chest-beating disguised as addresses to the assembly, Jack doesn't feel the need for rescue and so distracts the other boys from keeping the fire lit. He tells the assembly "Yes. The beast is a hunter" without taking a moment to reflect that perhaps the hunter is the beast.

Having lost and been wounded by the powerful, aggressive boar in the previous chapter, Jack chooses now to attack a defenseless sow who is vulnerable while she nurses her piglets — an act of supreme cruelty. The sow's death and disfigurement marks the triumph of evil and the climax of the novel. Jack's selection of the vulnerable sow arises from his defeated attempt to depose Ralph and foreshadows his later actions. While he couldn't impeach Ralph openly and was wounded emotionally in the attempt, he can defeat him by killing the defenseless boys in his tribe, Piggy and Simon.

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