Jack scans the oppressively silent forest, looking for pigs to hunt. A bird startles him as he progresses along the trail. He examines the texture of vines ("creepers") to determine whether or not pigs have run through that section of the brush. Finally, Jack spots a path cleared by pigs (a "pig run") and hears the pattering of hooves. He raises his spear and hurls it at a group of pigs, driving them away and thus feeling a profound sense of impotence and frustration. The length of Jack's hair, the mass of freckles on his tanned back, and the tattered condition of his shorts indicate that weeks have passed since the boys were abandoned on the island. Jack appears to have taken up his role as group hunter with zeal, and he at least has become talented at tracking pigs in the dense brush.
Having frightened off the pigs without a kill, Jack abandons the hunt and returns to a clearing in the forest, where the boys are constructing crude shelters out of tree trunks and palm leaves. He comes upon Ralph, who is working on a shelter facing the lagoon. Jack asks Ralph for water, who directs him to a tree where coconut shells full of water are arranged. After Jack quenches his thirst, Ralph complains to Jack that the boys are not working hard to build the shelters. The little ones-referred to now as "littluns," are hopeless, spending most of their time bathing or eating. Jack reminds Ralph that he and his hunters are working hard to ensure that the group is always fed.
Jack then tells Ralph that as chief he should just order them to work harder. Ralph admits that even if he called a meeting, the group would agree to five minutes of work and then "wander off to go hunting." Recognizing this as a slight against himself and his hunters, Jack blushes, and he explains that the group is hungry. Ralph points out that Jack's group has yet to bring any meat back from the forest-the hunters would rather swim than hunt. Jack explains that he has little control over his hunters, but he has been working hard himself to "kill." A "madness" flashes in his eyes when he vows to kill a pig, but Ralph again reminds him that he has not yet captured any prey.
The two argue about Jack's contributions to the society on the island, Jack vowing to kill prey and Ralph insisting that they need shelters more than anything. Ralph mentions that the other boys, especially the littluns, are frightened and scream in the middle of the night. The two are interrupted by Simon, who reminds Ralph and Jack about the littluns' fear of the "beastie." The three reminisce about their first day on the island, when they explored the unknown territory together. They laugh that the littluns are "crackers." Jack says that when he is hunting he often feels as if he is being hunted, but he admits that this is irrational. Nevertheless, he says, he knows "how they feel."
Ralph ignores this confession and reminds Jack to remember the fire when he is out hunting. Ralph and Jack make their way to the mountain to inspect the fire, leaving Simon behind. The two speculate as to whether or not the fire is strong enough to signal a passing ship, but Jack is distracted again by thoughts of killing a pig. Ralph, indignant at Jack's preoccupation with hunting, accuses him again of not contributing to the project of building shelters. Not wanting to start a fruitless argument, however, Ralph points out the other boys near the bathing pool and explains that Simon has worked as hard as he has at building shelters. The two make their way back to the huts in search of Simon, but he is nowhere to be found. Ralph, disappointed and confused, pronounces Simon "queer" and "funny." The two boys decide to go swimming together in the island bathing pool and soon find that the tension between them has dissolved.
In the forest, Simon is wandering alone. Simon followed Jack and Ralph halfway up the beach toward the mountain, then turned into the forest with a sense of purpose. He is a tall, skinny boy with a coarse mop of black hair, brilliant eyes, and bare feet. He walks through the acres of fruit trees and finds fruit that the smallest boys cannot reach. He gives the boys fruit, then proceeds along the path into the jungle. He finds an open space and looks to see whether he is alone. This open space contains great aromatic bushes, a bowl of heat and light. Simon eagerly takes in the complex sensations of the forest, and he stays peacefully enclosed in a "cabin" of leaves until long after day has faded into night.
The main focus of this short chapter is the developing conflict between Ralph and Jack. The two engage in a verbal argument that indicates that each character is clinging dogmatically to his own perspective. What is more, they represent opposing ideologies. While Ralph is dedicated to building shelters for the group, Jack is determined to become a successful hunter and establish himself as a lone hero among the group. Ralph's orientation is towards the group, while Jack is concerned with his own glory, which hinges again on militaristic values. Jack seeks to dominate and conquer nature through hunting and killing pigs, a goal that foreshadows the intensification of his violent impulses throughout the novel and further identifies him as a symbol for totalitarian, as opposed to democratic, political organization.
The chapter's beginning follows Jack on a solitary hunt through the forest, which underscores Jack's importance to the novel and explains his preoccupation with hunting. For Jack, hunting is not an instinctive talent but a skill that he continues to develop as the story unfolds. His motives for hunting are disturbing. He hunts not for the ostensible purpose of gaining food to eat but for his personal enjoyment. Golding indicates that there is something tremendously dangerous in Jack's obsession; his expression is one of "madness" when he speaks about his desire to kill. At this point in the story Jack is not sufficiently prepared to kill, but he is approaching the point at which he can inflict mortal violence upon another, whether a pig or a person. Ralph cannily realizes this trait when he reminds Jack that the most important thing that the boys must do is to build a shelter. He implicitly tells Jack that his obsession with hunting does not help the boys' chances of survival.
Golding also elaborates on Ralph's character, which is presented as sympathetic, rational, and focused on the group's welfare. Still, he is not a perfect leader. He expresses regret and frustration that he cannot control the behavior of the other boys. The major burden that Ralph faces is that he must deal with young children unprepared to care for themselves or fulfill responsibility. As he explains, Ralph cannot simply give them orders and expect them to be completed, as Jack automatically assumes he can. Ralph alerts the reader to one of the major obstacles that the boys must overcome: they must behave beyond their years in order to survive and flourish long enough to be saved.
We may also note in Chapter Three the changes in the characters' appearances and in the language they use. There is a significant gap of time between this chapter and the last, and the boys have grown farther from the conventions and values of the Home Counties. Jack hunts in the forest half-naked, and many of the boys wear "tattered shorts" or have bare feet, details that indicate that they have abandoned the ways of home in favor of comfort and ease. Moreover, the younger boys, referred to as "little ones" in the previous chapters, are now called "littluns," and Sam and Eric, the twins, have become "Samneric," a compound that suggests that, in the eyes of the group, the two characters are considered one. In the absence of external authority, the boys have developed their own dress code and are beginning to establish their own language. It is becoming an independent culture. Golding reinforces the latter detail by reproducing the boys' own invented words-"littluns" and "Samneric"-in his own third-person prose. The implication is that the boys' civilization is less a mirror of their upbringing than it is a reflection of the unique concerns and dynamics of life on the island.
Chapter Three provides the reader with more insight into Simon's character. Simon was introduced in Chapter One but is not important until he interrupts Ralph's and Jack's argument. Described as barefoot, long-haired, and alternately "queer" and "funny," Simon is revealed as socially outcast from the other boys. Yet, unlike Piggy, Simon seems content with his difference and even cultivates it. When he, Ralph, and Jack decide to go look at the signal fire, Simon abruptly abandons the mission without word in order to wander off into the forest with a sense of "purpose." Ignoring the usual rules of social interaction, which would require him to tell the others of his plans out of politeness, Simon distinguishes himself as ruled not by society but by an intense and even spiritual inner force. His long hair and bare feet connect him not only to nature but to the stereotypical wandering prophet or even Jesus Christ, a link that the novel will enforce further with his murder.
Simon's experience in the jungle, which we read in detail, emphasizes his spiritual and peaceful character. The open space that he settles into in the jungle is an indication that, for Simon, the island is indeed Edenic. Unlike Ralph, who seeks to protect the group from nature, and Jack, who seeks to conquer and control it, Simon views the natural landscape as a place of beauty and tranquility. His excursion shows that he is the one character having an affinity with the natural world. There are strong religious overtones in Golding's description of the area that Simon finds. With its candle-buds, serene stillness, and leafy walls, it recalls a place of worship.
While the dialogue in Chapter Three highlights the ideological contrast between Jack and Ralph, on a structural level, Golding also forces Jack and Simon into comparison. The chapter begins and concludes in the forest, linking both characters to the area (in contrast to Ralph, who is associated with the beach and mountain areas that he has marked with symbols of civilization-the fire and shelters). Jack and Simon are both anti-civilizing characters, attracted to the wild, untamed environment of nature, which they prefer to experience in solitude and silence. Nevertheless, their experiences of the forest are markedly distinct. While Jack disturbs and disrupts his surroundings, causing both birds and pigs to flee, Simon feels in complete harmony with the natural world. He submerges himself in the rhythms of the forest not to disturb it, but to appreciate its unique sounds, scents, and images. Jack and Simon thus represent two different human approaches to the natural world: the desire to subjugate nature and the desire to coexist in harmony with it. Within this schema, Ralph and Piggy represent a third position, that which seeks to retreat from but make use of nature with a distant but tangible respect.