Ralph makes his way back to the meeting place, but is reluctant to stay the
night alone in the shelter, and longing for human company goes back again to Jack’s end of the island.
On his way, he comes across the Lord of the Flies and removes the pig’s head so he can use the stake as a weapon.
Samneric were tortured and forced to join the tribe and they have now been
put on watch. As Ralph approaches them he tries to win them back, but they are too frightened to turn again.
Ralph decides to hide and sleep for the night, but Samneric betray the
tribe, who set the jungle on fire to flush him out, discovers him and him.
Ralph escapes again and finds another hiding place, but the fire is now
spreading out of control across the island and he is forced to go onto the beach where he meets a British Naval Officer whose ship was attracted by the smoke from the fire.
Ralph breaks into tears with relief and for all that has been lost.
Jack’s hunters reach the beach and are amazed to see the Officer standing
above Ralph. The Officer is surprised to see the sight of the small group, but doesn’t see them for what they are, bloodthirsty savages, but just English boys having a bit of fun.
Ralph is relieved that he has escaped a violent death.
Ralph must be in a desperate state, being ostracized by the rest of the
boys, and he finds himself wandering back to their end of the island. He comes across the Lord of the Flies and destroys the idol, using the stake as a weapon.
He does not know it yet, but the days are numbered for the evil that exists on the island with the destruction of this totem, just as the destruction of the conch and Piggy’s death marked the end of reason on the island.
So far as Jack’s position is concerned, there is now only one thing, which
reminds them of their past and that, is Ralph, so a hunting party is organized to find and kill him. Roger has sharpened a stake at both ends in order to impale Ralph’s head once they have murdered him.
This would be a way to finally mock him as their leader, using his head as a totem / trophy for the tribe.
Remember that the hunters were given the responsibility to maintain the
signal fire which they consistently failed to do, but now they set light to the jungle in order to draw Ralph out, and this action causes their rescue to take place.
When they do catch up with Ralph, he is in the company of a Naval Officer and they are so shocked by his presence that they immediately return to being children, even though they still appear like painted savages.
Many have criticized the ending of the novel, feeling that Ralph’s death
would have provided a more accurate conclusion to this morbid story.
It is interesting to see how Golding uses irony throughout the novel which
is characterized in the Naval Officer’s reaction when he sees the boys, wondering how such stout British lads could have acted with such poor form.
His tone is totally at odds with the dramatic, harsh dialogue of the rest of the book.