Lord of the Flies Summary and Analysis

Chapter Eight: Gift for the Darkness

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The next morning, the boys gather on the beach to discuss what the hunters saw. Ralph tells Piggy about the creature on the mountain, which he describes as a beast with teeth and big black eyes. Piggy is skeptical. Jack assures the group that his hunters can defeat the beast, but Ralph dismisses Jack's group as no more than boys with sticks. Jack tells the other boys that the beast is a hunter, and he informs them that Ralph thinks that the boys are cowards. He continues his attack on Ralph, claiming that Ralph is no proper chief, for he is a coward himself. Jack asks the boys if they want Ralph to be fired as chief. When nobody agrees with him, Jack runs off in tears. He asserts that he is no longer going to be part of Ralph's lot. Jack leaves the group on the beach.

After Jack runs off, Piggy tells the group they can do without him, but they should stay close to the platform. Simon suggests that they climb the mountain. Piggy says that if they climb the mountain they can start the fire again, but he then suggests that they start a fire down by the beach. Piggy organizes the new fire area by the beach. Ralph notices that several of the boys are missing. Piggy is confident that they all will do well enough if they behave with common sense, and he proposes a feast. They wonder where Simon has gone and surmise that he might be climbing the mountain. In fact, Simon left to sit in the open space he had found earlier.

Far off along the beach, Jack proclaims that he will be chief of the hunters and that they must forget about the beast. He says that they might go later to the castle rock, but now they will kill a pig and have a feast to celebrate their independence. They find a group of pigs, and Jack kills a large sow by forcing his spear up her anus. Jack rubs the blood over Maurice's cheeks while Roger laughs about how the fatal blow against the sow was delivered up her ass. They cut off the pig's head and leave it on a stick as a gift for the beast at the mountaintop. When they place the offering upright, blood drips down the sow's teeth, and they run away. Simon, from his private space, sees the head, which has flies buzzing around it.

Back on the beach, Ralph worries that the boys will die if they are not rescued soon. Ralph and Piggy realize that it is Jack who makes everything break apart.

Ralph's group is startled as the forest suddenly bursts into uproar. The littluns run off while Jack approaches, naked except for paint and a belt, his hunters taking burning branches from the fire. Jack tells Ralph and his group that he and his hunters are living along the beach by a flat rock, where they hunt and feast and have fun. He invites the boys to join his tribe. When Jack leaves, Ralph says that he thought Jack was going to take the conch, which Ralph still considers a symbol of ritual and order. They reassure each other again that the fire is the most important task at hand. But a boy among them named Bill appears skeptical. He suggests that they go to the hunters' feast and tell them that the fire is hard on them. At the top of the mountain remains the pig's head, which Simon has dubbed the Lord of the Flies.

Simon believes that the pig's head speaks to him. He thinks that it is calling him a silly little boy. The Lord of the Flies tells Simon to run off and play with the others, who think that he is crazy. The Lord of the Flies claims that he is the Beast, and the Beast laughs at the idea that the Beast is something that could be hunted and killed, for he is within every human being and thus can never be defeated or escaped from. Terrified and disoriented by this disturbing vision, Simon falls down and loses consciousness.

Analysis

In this chapter, Golding continues to use his main characters as personifications of various facets of the human spirit. Piggy remains the lone skeptic among the boys and still unsure of the presence of the beast, which continues to be the focus of island life for Jack and his hunters. Even Ralph, succumbing to fear and suspicion, now believes that there is a beast on the island. Although Ralph is the clear protagonist of the story and the character to whom Golding affixes the reader's perspective, he is still susceptible to the childish passions and irrationality that are, to varying extents, present in the other children. Ralph's weakness is not insignificant. While Ralph may be more mature and rational than Jack and his hunters, given the right circumstances he can submit to the same passions as the other boys, a tendency that foreshadows the tragic events that unfold in subsequent chapters.

The political subtext of previous chapters becomes more overt in this chapter as Jack explicitly attempts to overthrow Ralph as chief. Although Ralph successfully defends himself against Jack's attack by calling the other boys' attention to Jack's shortsightedness and cowardice, Jack is resolved that he will take control. Jack's refusal to accept the other boys' decision serves as a reminder that Jack is still a child who considers life on the island as a game; he assumes the position that, if he cannot set the rules of the game, he refuses to play at all. This decision provokes the subsequent events of the chapter, which focus on Jack's rejection not only of Ralph's authority but of the entire pseudo-democracy on the island that had conferred authority on Ralph. Jack, realizing that he cannot take authority directly away from Ralph, appoints himself as the authority and begins his own "tribe." Two "governments" thus exist on the island in this chapter. Ralph presides over what resembles a liberal democracy, while Jack forms a type of military dictatorship. The two systems remain ideologically opposed, an opposition that Golding highlights by placing the camps on different sides of the island. The structure of the chapter also evokes the creation of two different governments on the island and foreshadows the dominance of Jack's system over Ralph's. If there is a belligerent culture nearby, a peaceful culture must militarize in order to survive. The chapter begins with Jack rejecting Ralph's conch shell as a symbol of authority conferred by democratic consensus, and it ends with the creation of the Lord of the Flies, a symbol of the lawlessness and violence that motivates Jack's desire for power.

Golding also continues to represent Piggy as the sensible and in some respects the most essential character for the boys' survival. The abrasive edge that Piggy demonstrated upon their arrival now becomes secondary to his practical wisdom, his ability to quickly understand and adapt to new situations. Among the major characters, Piggy is the only one who does not have predictable emotions. While Jack and Simon descend into their respective forms of madness and Ralph remains sensible but increasingly cynical and vulnerable, Piggy confounds the reader's expectations by assuming authority over the boys despite his sickly appearance and aversion to physical labor. In this chapter, even Ralph defers to Piggy's sound judgment and resolve. But any hints of Piggy's heroism in this chapter are undermined by the increasing subjugation of the island's pigs to Jack and his hunters. Piggy is linked to the pigs by his name; as Jack's group become more focused on and adept at hunting them, Piggy's own victimization by the group becomes more likely. In part, the killing of the sow foreshadows Piggy's tragic fate.

As was foreshadowed in the previous chapter, Jack and his hunters continue to devolve into savagery in Chapter Eight. They indulge more and more in stereotypical "native" behavior that emphasizes the use of violence and rituals of song and dance. For these boys the actions are initially little more than a game; when Jack invites the other boys to join his tribe, he explains that the point of this new tribe is solely to have fun. The boys continue to see their behavior as savages as part of an elaborate game, even as the "game" takes on increasingly dangerous and violent undertones. The mounting brutality and impulsiveness of Jack's group in this chapter foreshadows the events of Chapter Nine, in which the boys' behavior moves from mere pretending at violence to actual murder.

The scene where Simon confronts the pig's head, which he calls the Lord of the Flies, remains the most debated episode among critics of the novel. Many critics have noted that the scene resembles the New Testament's telling of Jesus' confrontation with Satan during his forty days in the wilderness. Simon, a naturally moral, selfless character, does seem to be a Christ-figure who, in his knowledge of the true nature of the beast, is the sole bearer of truth at this point in the novel. In this scene with the pig's head, represented as evil, he meets and struggles against his antithesis. His eventual sacrifice, again an allusion to the crucifixion of Jesus, will mark the triumph of evil over good on the island.

A close reading of Simon's interaction with the pig's head can yield additional interpretations. In ways that complicate the biblical allegory in this scene, Golding also represents the Lord of the Flies in this chapter as the symbol of the boys' descent from civilized behavior to inhuman savagery. In this framework, the pig's head serves as a corrective for Simon's naive view of nature as a peaceful force. For Simon, the pig's head is a revelation (his final one) that alerts him to the fact that while nature is beautiful and fascinating, it is also brutal and indifferent. In previous chapters, Golding linked Simon to a vision of nature that was abundant, beautiful, and Edenic. The Lord of the Flies represents a different kind of nature, a hellish one, not one of paradise. Seen through Simon's perspective, the Lord of the Flies is a Hobbesian reminder that human life in the most basic state of nature is in fact nasty, brutish, short, and worse. In keeping with Golding's characterization of Simon as spiritual, the pig's head has deep religious connotations: the phrase "lord of the flies" is a translation of the Hebrew word Ba'alzevuv, or its Greek equivalent Beelzebub. The pig's head is thus a symbol of Satan, but, as it reminds Simon, this devil is not an external force. Rather, it is a more nefarious evil, one created by, and remaining within, the boys themselves.

Another interesting facet of Golding's representation of nature in this chapter is evident in the pig hunt. Historically, artists and novelists have associated the natural world with women, in contrast to the civilized world, which they linked to men. Nature is often gendered in literature as female and in this sense a threat to the civilized forces of masculinity. Accordingly, Golding represents this pig hunt in gendered terms and with violent sexual imagery in that the boys kill a female pig with a spear thrust into her anus, which evokes rape. In a novel that has no female human characters appearing in any scene, and in which women are barely even mentioned, this sow and what happens to her carries additional weight. The brutal murder of the sow represents the boys' attempts to subjugate and impose their will on the natural world, coded here as feminine. We may again note the metaphoric link between Piggy and the sow, which calls attention to the ways in which Piggy is himself coded as "feminine": hairless, softly rounded, and with several stereotypically girlish qualities, such as disliking physical labor. In this way, too, the sow's subjugation anticipates his own.