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William Golding

Lord of the Flies

Chapter 2:
Easier questions to cut your teeth on!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 4 March 2014
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Ralph, Jack and Simon have climbed the mountain and determined that they were indeed on an island. They call a meeting of the boys late that afternoon to report back.

The suggestion is made that the only way for them to be rescued is by building a fire, at which point the meeting disintegrates as the boys rush back to the mountain to light their fire.

The attempt is a disaster as the flames leap out of control. At least one of the boys is killed in the inferno.


Why does Simon climb the mountain with Ralph and Jack? He was only six years of age and not very strong? Indeed, he was the young boy who had earlier fainted.

To find a possible answer, one has to turn to an earlier novel called Coral Island by R.M. Ballantyne which forms the foundation upon which William Golding builds his story.

Coral Island is the tale of three English lads who get wrecked on a South Pacific island during the latter part of the 19th century. They are Ralph, Jack and Peterkin.

The tropical island is precisely the same place in both novels. The big difference lies in the quality of the boys.

Ballantyne's heroes are gentlemen -- and they remain gentlemen throughout the novel.

They have true leadership and absolute loyalty to one another. To them, the entire incident is one great adventure which they enjoy to the entirety.

In Coral Island, Ralph and Jack are the leaders -- just as they are in Lord of the Flies.

Peterkin, however, is not quite so bright. He nevertheless remains a respected member of the team.

In Lord of the Flies, Peterkin is replaced by Piggy, a boy who is very bright indeed but is fat, irritating and suffers from asthma.

Unlike Peterkin of Coral Island, Golding starts working Piggy away from the comfort of friendship with either Ralph or Jack.

Nevertheless, Golding needs three boys to explore the island. He therefore settles on a youngster, Simon, to replace the Peterkin of the original novel.

This enables Ralph and Jack to discuss things over the top of Simon's head.

In Coral Island, on the other hand, Peterkin claims that his head is so hollow that Jack and Ralph's words can go right through it without hindrance.

The major difference between the two novels, apart from the number of children, is that in Coral Island the boys remain gentlemen throughout.

In Lord of the Flies, they descend quickly into a state of anarchy and barbarism.

It is as though Golding is saying, "Look where English children are today. During the 19th century, they would have remained stout-hearted gentlemen. Modern English children have only a veneer of civilization. Leave them alone for just a short time and they will descend into unutterable savagery."

Of course, Golding has the example of Germany to prove his point. Germany was one of the bastions of civilization of the 19th century and yet, in the mid-20th century, along came Hitler and revealed that even this civilization was a mere veneer, a sham.

Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?
Read the left column and then answer
the following questions:

At the second meeting which took place the afternoon after the plane crash, the choir was "noticeably less of a group".
  • Why was this so? (2)

[Need help?]

Almost as soon as the meeting began, Jack revealed his dictatorial and sadistic side. Explain how. (3)

[Need help?]

Piggy told the meeting, "You're hindering Ralph. You're not letting him get to the most important thing."
  • What was this "most important thing" that Piggy had in mind? (2)

[Need help?]

Ralph commented that the island had everything that they could want.
  • What did he mean by "everything"? (3)

[Need help?]

  • What important things were not on his list? (5)

[Need help?]

The little boy with the birthmark reported that there was a "snake-thing" on the island, a "beastie".
  • Why did he conjure up the idea of the beastie? (3)

[Need help?]

  • What effect did his story have on the rest of the boys? (3)

[Need help?]

  • Comment on the different way in which Ralph and Jack viewed the beastie. (4)

[Need help?]

At the announcement about making a fire, the meeting disintegrated as the boys rushed off in the excitement of this further adventure. Piggy, however, was scornful. "I bet it's gone tea-time," he said.
  • What did Piggy mean by "tea-time"? (2)

[Need help?]

  • Ralph charged off with the rest of the boys. What does this tell us about him? (2)

[Need help?]

The first attempt to build a fire was a dismal failure.
  • Why was this so? (4)

[Need help?]

  • What happened to the little boy with the purplish mark on his face? (2)

[Need help?]

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See also:
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