Summary and Analysis Chapter 8


Voices can be a tool of evil as well. In the previous chapter, Jack's voice came unidentified out of the darkness like the devil's voice. While his choirboys-turned-hunters prepare unknowingly in this chapter to commit cruelty against their former friends and group members by joining Jack, Golding points out for contrast that "their voices had been the song of angels" back in civilization. Now they take part in slaughtering a mother pig and putting her head on a stake, offering it to the supposed beast while "The silence accepted the gift."

Note that when the sow's head speaks to Simon, it takes on a male voice, becoming the Lord of the Flies. Interestingly, Piggy and the Lord of the Flies both give the same answer to the same question, although they each phrase it slightly differently. Ralph asks Piggy "what makes things break up like they do?" and receives the reply "I dunno. I expect it's him . . . Jack." Meanwhile Simon hears the staked head tell him, "You knew, didn't you? . . . I'm the reason why it's no go? Why things are what they are?" The Lord of the Flies, a literal translation of the Greek word Beelzebub, symbolizes evil, and Jack is evil personified. Piggy's assessment of the problem is actually much tamer in intent, based not on a consideration of evil but what he terms a lack of common sense (reason).

True to Piggy's assertion that "It's them that haven't no common sense that make trouble on this island," Jack doesn't seem to have much common sense. He dictates to his hunters that they forget the beast and stop having nightmares, as if either mental process could be controlled on command. Piggy has a more rational solution to their situation, one that actually requires more courage on the boys' part than Jack's foolishly unrealistic demands. "We just got to go on, that's all. That's what grownups would do." Ralph wishes he could think more like a grownup, impressed with Piggy's astuteness in noting that Samneric need to take separate shifts in tending the fire rather than taking their turn together. Piggy and Ralph rely on adult behavior as a model because they still maintain the image of grownups as eminently capable and reasonable. They equate adulthood with knowledge and higher understanding.

In a way, Simon shares the same perception but sees the darker side of knowledge. He sees the sow's eyes as "dim with the infinite cynicism of adult life" and later hears the head speak with a schoolmaster's voice, telling him to accept the presence of evil on the island. This view of adults is not defined by the civilized politeness and capability the boys imagined just two nights before, after the assembly. Cynicism results from gaining experience while losing optimism; having witnessed the pig's slaughter and defacement has given Simon experience in death and brutality and caused him to lose hope. Yet he soldiers on in his quest to discover the identity of the beast on the mountain top, the beast he knows is false because he has just had a conversation with the true beast.

Just as Piggy and Simon seem to share an idea about the cause of the island society's disintegration, Simon and Jack have similar revelations as well. During the first successful hunt in Chapter 4, Jack is excited by "the knowledge that had come to them when they closed in on the struggling pig." In this chapter, Simon's "gaze was held by that ancient, inescapable recognition" as he looks upon the Lord of the Flies. Both boys are connecting with the savagery that begets evil, but Jack revels in it while Simon is undone by it, trapped by his vision of the Lord of the Flies in his hidden spot until he passes out.

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