Ralph is concerned at the breakdown of discipline that has cost them the
chance of rescue. He calls another meeting to remind them all about the agreements which have been made concerning the signal fire, the collection of fresh water, the building of shelters and the use of the
As darkness falls he opens up the meeting for general discussion and the
fears of the small boys are brought to the fore.
They maintain that there is a beast on the island and Jack responds by
saying that if there were such a beast he would have seen it. The littluns persist that there is a beast, which only comes out at night and Piggy uses logic to try and allay their fears, saying that they would
still have seen it during the daytime. One of the littluns, Percival, says that you won’t see it during the daytime, because it lives in the sea. This previously outthought of explanation terrifies all
the boys and the meeting plunges into chaos. Jack runs away followed by many of the other boys and in the distance they can be heard following Jack dancing and chanting.
Piggy urges Ralph to blow the conch to summon the boys back, but Ralph is
afraid that such a summons would be unheeded, thus undermining his credibility.
Ralph thinks about giving up his leadership, but Piggy and Simon persuade
him that he is needed, especially by the littluns.
The menacing Jack is winning the power struggle between Jack and Ralph and
the community slips away from a civilized state towards a base, primitive existence. Ralph’s hold on all the boys is slipping and his attempts to reason with them are ineffective.
The first real reference to a non-existent beast comes into the story and
this will be the most important symbol of the novel. It represents both the fear and attraction of primordial instincts towards aggression, savagery and power, which lurk within every person’s psyche.
It is well to remind ourselves that all the characters are children, the
oldest being around twelve. These are twelve-year-old English boys and not the worldly-wise twelve-year-olds of today. (Remember this novel was written in the early 50’s when boys of this age were much
In the previous chapter we learn about the society of the littluns who have
their own hierarchy. Percival is one of the youngest boys and is bullied by fellow littluns, but it is Percival who sends the meeting into disarray when he suggests that he has seen the beast and that it lives
in the sea.
This shows that underneath the bravado, most of the boys are insecure as
characterized by their recurring nightmares. The mythical beast is one of the most important symbols within the book.
The fact that the smallest boy can stir up anxiety amongst them all is at first hard to believe, but the important aspect here is not who spoke, but what was said. The beast coming from the sea represents the primitive savage in us all emerging from the unconscious mind. This will cause the breakdown of their fragile social order.
The following of Ralph’s rules, which are for the benefit of all, is being
replaced by Jack’s bloodlust for the hunt.