Lord of the Flies Summary and Analysis
Chapter Seven: Shadows and Tall Trees
The boys continue to travel across the island to the mountain, and they stop to eat. Ralph notices how long his hair is and how dirty and unclean he has become. He has been following the hunters, and he observes that on this side of the island, which is opposite to the one on which the boys have settled, the view is utterly different. The horizon is a hard, clipped blue, and the ocean crashes against the rocks. He compares the ocean to a thick wall, an impermeable barrier preventing the boys' escape. As Ralph appears to lose hope, Simon reassures him that they will leave the island eventually. Ralph is somewhat doubtful, but Simon replies that his thoughts are simply opinions. Roger calls for Ralph, telling him that they need to continue hunting.
That afternoon, the boys discover pig droppings. Jack suggests that they hunt the pig in addition to continuing their search for the beast. A boar appears, and the boys set out in pursuit of it. Ralph, who has never hunted before, is excited by the chase and quickly gets caught up in the adventure. He throws his spear at a boar. While it only nicks his snout, Ralph is encouraged by what he considers his good marksmanship.
Jack is wounded on his left forearm, apparently by the boar's tusks. He proudly presents his wound to the crowd, and Simon tells him he should suck the wound to prevent infection. The hunters go into a frenzy once more, repeatedly chanting "kill the pig." Caught up in the momentum of their chanting and dancing, they jab at Robert with their spears, at first in jest, and then with more dangerous intent. Frightened and hurt, Robert drags himself away from the crowd, now aware that they are carried away with their game. Roger and Jack talk about the chanting, and Jack says that someone should dress up as a pig and pretend to knock him over. When Robert says that Jack should get a real pig that he can actually kill, Jack replies that they could just use a littlun. The boys, enamored by Jack's bold statement, laugh and cheer him on. Ralph tries to remind the boys that they were only playing a game. He is concerned about the increasingly violent, impulsive behavior of the hunters.
As evening falls, the boys start climbing up the mountain once more, and Ralph realizes that they won't be able to return to the beach until morning. He does not want to leave the littluns alone with Piggy all night. Jack mocks Ralph for his concern for Piggy. Simon says that he can go back to the beach and inform the group of the hunters' whereabouts. Ralph tells Jack that there is not enough light to go hunting for pigs, so they should wait until morning. Sensing hostility from Jack, Ralph asks him why he hates him. Jack has no answer.
Though the hunters are tired and afraid, Jack vows that he will go up the mountain to look for the beast. Jack mocks Ralph for not wanting to go up the mountain, accusing him of being afraid. Jack claims he saw something bulge on the mountain. Since Jack seems for the first time somewhat afraid, Ralph agrees that they will look for it immediately. The boys see a rock-like hump and something like a great ape sitting asleep with its head between its knees. As soon as they see it, the boys run off, terrified.
In this chapter, Golding further develops the themes he introduced in "Beast From Air." The rift between Jack and Ralph becomes more intense as Ralph continues to remind Jack of his misguided priorities. The struggle in this chapter between the two characters again assumes political overtones, as the two engage in a power struggle for authority over the other boys. The concerns of Ralph and Jack were established in previous chapters: the former focuses on survival and escape while the latter focuses on hunting and self-gratification. In this chapter Golding examines the tactics that each uses to assert his authority. Jack uses his bravado to signify his strength and dominance, and he attempts to diminish Ralph in the eyes of the other boys by ridiculing him for his supposed cowardice. Ralph, on the other hand, is straightforward and direct. He challenges Jack's overblown self-confidence by honestly noting that Jack is wrongly motivated by hatred.
Golding continues to use imagery and symbolism to trace the boys' descent into disorder, violence, and amorality. In particular, Golding suggests in this chapter that the line between the boys and animals is becoming increasingly blurred. The hunters chant and dance, and one of the boys again pretends to be a pig while the other boys pretend to kill him. The parallel between boy and pig in the ritual is a powerful dramatization of the implications of the boys' giving in to their violent impulses, indicating that the children are no better than animals and that, like the pig, they too will be sacrificed to fulfill the brutal desires of Jack and his hunters.
Characterization in Chapter Seven also foreshadows the tragic events to come. In particular, Jack, who is increasingly confident as a hunter and leader, suggests that his violent impulses are now directed at the other children as well as at the pigs on the island. Jack's joke that the group should kill a littlun in place of a pig demonstrates a blatant disregard for human life and explicitly acknowledges that he appreciates violence for its own sake. His joke also signals the waning of his conscience as the boys continue to exist in the absence of adult society and its rules. Jack, who previously needed to prepare himself to kill a pig, indicates that he is now probably capable of killing people without remorse.
As Ralph faces the challenge of tracking and hunting the beast, physical tasks that are unfamiliar to him as the political leader of the boys, he demonstrates the dangerous appeal of aggressive and impulsive behavior such as Jack's. Golding tracks Ralph's brief sympathy with Jack's mindset to suggest that even the most civilized humans are susceptible to groupthink and the pressures of the Id, which is inclined towards destruction and self-gratification. The chapter begins with Ralph expressing disgust over his appearance, which again indicates his natural disinclination towards savagery. Yet, like Jack, Ralph feels exhilarated during the hunt and begins to understand the primal appeal of killing pigs. It is Jack's decision to continue the hunt in darkness, which Ralph rightly recognizes as ill-informed, that finally reminds Ralph of the essential foolishness of Jack's mindset. By showing Ralph's character as threatened but not subsumed by Jack's will, Golding suggests that the human impulse towards savagery, which is both strong and natural, can nevertheless be overcome by reason and intelligence.
While Golding's characterization of Jack and his hunters intends to caution the reader about the destructive impulses that reside inside all humans, it is important to note the historical biases at work in this depiction of the boys' hunting rituals. The boys chant and dance around in circles, whipping themselves up into a "frenzy" that pushes them to the brink of actual murder. They represent or are becoming "savages," which in Golding's time reminded readers of the native peoples of the Americas and Africa. This stereotype tended to associate these peoples with a very limited and barbaric culture, failing to appreciate the complex culture that events such as ritual dances expressed. A more charitable view of Jack's new warrior culture, say from an anthropologist's perspective, would not stress the dehumanization of the war-dance so much as their natural human reaction to the difficult conditions on the island, a reaction that after all can produce the meat that the children need.
Nature is also of crucial significance in this chapter. As the boys move farther from the camp into the unexplored recesses of the forest and mountain areas, they contend with the powerful forces of the natural world, which is untamed and indifferent to the boys' concerns. The emphasis on the indifference of nature in this chapter is significant in several ways. First, it suggests the continuing dehumanization of the boys as they remain cut off from the larger world and without successful social organization. Their progress from the semi-humanized beach, with its shelters and sandcastles, to the wild forest and mountain areas, mirrors their descent into complete savagery. The chapter's beginning, in which Ralph compares the ocean to an impenetrable wall, also suggests the extent to which nature remains the boys' most powerful antagonist. Ralph's pessimistic observations foreshadow the following chapters, in which Simon discovers that the "beast" is actually a dead body, whose presence on the island can be explained rationally. It was the darkness of the night that prevented the boys from recognizing the true nature of the creature of the mountaintop. Throughout the novel, the natural world frustrates and threatens the boys' understanding of their situation and their relationships with one another. Ralph's sense of defeat in the face of the ocean in this chapter thus indicates that he is beginning to register the power of nature and the part it plays in their struggle for rescue and self-government.
The conclusion of the chapter, with the boys' collective misrecognition of the dead parachutist as a malevolent beast, highlights the power of human nature to fear the unknown and magnify its importance. The boys compare the figure on the mountaintop to a great ape. The primate is a common symbol for early man and man's origins as an animal species. The boys recognize the ape-like creature as a monster, a moment that underscores the monstrous potential of humanity at its most primitive and base. The parachutist, whose arrival on the island inaugurates a series of events that lead to complete anarchy and bloodshed, thus links together evil, nature, and humanity in a single symbol. The haste with which the boys decide the dead body is a "monster" indicates not only the infectiousness of hysterical thinking among the boys, but also the extent to which the beast is a projection of their fear of their own savagery and violence.
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