Ralph

Ralph

Lord of the Flies both begins and ends by focusing on Ralph and it is his journey that we follow throughout the story. Ralph has fair hair, is described as 'attractive' and has a degree of natural charisma.

Although he is quite typical of a 12-year-old boy, Ralph also displays flashes of maturity and common sense which make him seem older. He has qualities of natural leadership such as bravery, fairness and a sense of justice so it is not surprising when he is elected to lead the others.

Ralph tries to keep to a civilised code of conduct but circumstances are against him. By the end of the novel, he is being hunted down by the other boys and it is only by a stroke of good fortune that he is rescued from certain death.

How is Ralph like this?EvidenceAnalysis
LeadershipRalph is one of the oldest boys and is quickly elected as Chief. He is generally fair-minded and decisive. He listens to others but takes control when necessary.Something deep in Ralph spoke for him. "I'm chief. I'll go. Don't argue..." He found his voice tended either to disappear or to come out too loud. He looked at Jack.Ralph speaks in very short sentences so there is no doubt about what his orders are. However, he is not totally confident in his role and his voice wavers and he looks to Jack for approval.
CharismaticRalph is presented as an attractive character from his first appearance when he is contrasted with Piggy. He has brains and is also athletic. You could see now that he might make a boxer, as far as width and heaviness of shoulders went, but there was a mildness about his mouth and eyes that proclaimed no devil. Ralph has athletic qualities that would make other boys look up to him but he also has a generally kind nature which is shown in his face.
OrganisedRalph quickly realises that the two things that the boys will need are shelter and a signal to attract attention and he sees that these are achieved. He organises a sub-group to hunt for food and holds assemblies. The time had come for the assembly and as he walked into the concealing splendours of the sunlight he went carefully over the points of his speech... This meeting must not be fun but be business.He knows that the meeting will be difficult so he carefully rehearses what he is going to say and the points he is going to cover. Although he is finding this tricky, he perseveres and comes to a firm conclusion.
CivilisedRalph thinks it is important to have rules and be organised. He has a great sense of 'fair play' and defends others who are weaker than himself. As the novel progresses, Ralph begins to think increasingly about the civilised world that has been left behind. Once, following his father from Chatham to Devonport, they had lived in a cottage on the edge of the moors... Mummy had still been with them and Daddy had come home every day. Wild ponies came to the stone wall at the bottom of the garden, and it had snowed.Ralph daydreams about a time when adults made the decisions and he lived comfortably in a nice house with a nice garden and its own boundaries. He also remembers being formally educated.

Analysing the evidence

quote
Sitting under what seemed an unusual heat, even for this island, Ralph planned his toilet. He would like to have a pair of scissors and cut this hair - he flung the mass back -cut this filthy hair right back to half an inch. He would like to have a bath, a proper wallow with soap. He passed his tongue experimentally over his teeth and decided that a toothbrush would come in handy too. Then there were his nails - Ralph turned his hand over and examined them. They were bitten down to the quick though he could not remember when he had restarted this habit nor any time when he indulged it.' Ralph, as described by William Golding in the novel
Question

What is revealed here about Ralph's state of mind?

How to analyse the quote:

'Sitting under what seemed an unusual heat, even for this island, Ralph planned his toilet. He would like to have a pair of scissors and cut this hair - he flung the mass back - cut this filthy hair right back to half an inch. He would like to have a bath, a proper wallow with soap. He passed his tongue experimentally over his teeth and decided that a toothbrush would come in handy too. Then there were his nails - Ralph turned his hand over and examined them. They were bitten down to the quick though he could not remember when he had restarted this habit nor any time when he indulged it.'

  • 'planned' - this shows Ralph's need to be organised - even when he is daydreaming.
  • 'cut this hair' / 'have a bath' / 'a toothbrush would come in handy' - the things which Ralph longs for are all symbols of a civilised lifestyle.
  • 'this habit' - Ralph is starting to feel pressure and his nail biting is a result of this.

How to use this in an essay:

Ralph has tried to be an effective leader but has been constantly challenged by Jack and let down in his efforts by the other boys. As a result he daydreams about the civilised world he has left behind. Having a thorough wash, cutting his hair and brushing his teeth are all indications of a clean civilised society and this is something to which Ralph longs to return. Although this is all wishful thinking Ralph still needs to be organised and 'planned' what he would do. Ralph's concerns over his leadership and the boys' need for rescue have also led him to start biting his nails. Up until now, though, he seems to have been unaware that he has been doing it - 'this habit' has been carried out subconsciously and shows how worried he is.