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English Literature

Character

When the boys first gather on the island they appear a very varied group, yet by the end they all seem very similar. So, what happens to them to cause this transformation?

Let's look at the most important characters in more detail. If you've time, jot down the key points you've noticed about the characters featured here - then compare your notes with ours.

Ralph

  • He is twelve years and a few months old.
  • He has an attractive appearance, which suggests that he has an attractive character too. "You could see he might make a boxer, as far as width and heaviness in the shoulders went, but there was a mildness about his mouth and eyes that proclaimed no devil."
  • He is sensible: it was Ralph's idea to have a chief, establish rules and build a signal fire so they can be rescued. He speaks wisely.
  • He is a good leader. He knows that it's important to keep Jack on his side and speaks to Piggy with the directness of genuine leadership. "There was a stillness about Ralph as he sat that marked him out: there was his size and attractive appearance." Later on he feels the weight of being chief as a personal hell - but he doesn't give up.
  • He wants to hang on to civilised values. When he realises that their lives are full of dirt and decay, he feels a "convulsion of the mind". In the discussions about the beast, he feels "the understandable and lawful world... slipping away".
  • He uses civilised language. Even when he is pleading with Jack for the return of Piggy's glasses, he speaks like a school boy: "You aren't playing the game".
  • He is brave. He led the search for the beast at the fort alone: "I'm chief. I'll go. Don't argue." It is Ralph who approaches the dead airman at the top of the mountain, with leaden steps, while Jack and Roger stay back.
  • Yet even Ralph sometimes gets carried away with the hunt. Ralph starts the game where they pretend Robert is a pig: "The desire to squeeze and hurt was over-mastering". Later on, he becomes part of the 'dance' that kills Simon. Near the end, he breaks the pig's skull on the stick with a sick fear and rage.
  • Ralph finally becomes an outcast. He tells himself this is "Cos I had some sense".
  • When he meets the naval officer, he is seen as a little scarecrow, but Ralph is still able to assert himself as the leader. Then he cries, for the first time on the island.

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