Summary: Chapter 3
Carrying a stick sharpened into a makeshift spear, Jack trails a pig through the thick jungle, but it evades him. Irritated, he walks back to the beach, where he finds Ralph and Simon at work building huts for the younger boys to live in. Ralph is irritated because the huts keep falling down before they are completed and because, though the huts are vital to the boys’ ability to live on the island, none of the other boys besides Simon will help him. As Ralph and Simon work, most of the other boys splash about and play in the lagoon. Ralph gripes that few of the boys are doing any work. He says that all the boys act excited and energized by the plans they make at meetings, but none of them is willing to work to make the plans successful.
Ralph points out that Jack’s hunters have failed to catch a single pig. Jack claims that although they have so far failed to bring down a pig, they will soon have more success. Ralph also worries about the smaller children, many of whom have nightmares and are unable to sleep. He tells Jack about his concerns, but Jack, still trying to think of ways to kill a pig, is not interested in Ralph’s problems.
Ralph, annoyed that Jack, like all the other boys, is unwilling to work on the huts, implies that Jack and the hunters are using their hunting duties as an excuse to avoid the real work. Jack responds to Ralph’s complaints by commenting that the boys want meat. Jack and Ralph continue to bicker and grow increasingly hostile toward each other. Hoping to regain their sense of camaraderie, they go swimming together in the lagoon, but their feelings of mutual dislike remain and fester.
In the meantime, Simon wanders through the jungle alone. He helps some of the younger boys—whom the older boys have started to call “littluns”—reach fruit hanging from a high branch. He walks deeper into the forest and eventually finds a thick jungle glade, a peaceful, beautiful open space full of flowers, birds, and butterflies. Simon looks around to make sure that he is alone, then sits down to take in the scene, marveling at the abundance and beauty of life that surrounds him.
Analysis: Chapter 3
The personal conflict between Ralph and Jack mirrors the overarching thematic conflict of the novel. The conflict between the two boys brews as early as the election in Chapter 1 but remains hidden beneath the surface, masked by the camaraderie the boys feel as they work together to build a community. In this chapter, however, the conflict erupts into verbal argument for the first time, making apparent the divisions undermining the boys’ community and setting the stage for further, more violent developments.
As Ralph and Jack argue, each boy tries to give voice to his basic conception of human purpose: Ralph advocates building huts, while Jack champions hunting. Ralph, who thinks about the overall good of the group, deems hunting frivolous. Jack, drawn to the exhilaration of hunting by his bloodlust and desire for power, has no interest in building huts and no concern for what Ralph thinks. But because Ralph and Jack are merely children, they are unable to state their feelings articulately.
At this point in the novel, the conflict between civilization and savagery is still heavily tilted in favor of civilization. Jack, who has no real interest in the welfare of the group, is forced to justify his desire to hunt rather than build huts by claiming that it is for the good of all the boys. Additionally, though most of the boys are more interested in play than in work, they continue to re-create the basic structures of civilization on the island. They even begin to develop their own language, calling the younger children “littluns” and the twins Sam and Eric “Samneric.”
Simon, meanwhile, seems to exist outside the conflict between Ralph and Jack, between civilization and savagery. We see Simon’s kind and generous nature through his actions in this chapter. He helps Ralph build the huts when the other boys would rather play, indicating his helpfulness, discipline, and dedication to the common good. Simon helps the littluns reach a high branch of fruit, indicating his kindness and sympathy—a sharp contrast to many of the older boys, who would rather torment the littluns than help them. When Simon sits alone in the jungle glade marveling at the beauty of nature, we see that he feels a basic connection with the natural world. On the whole, Simon seems to have a basic goodness and kindness that comes from within him and is tied to his connection with nature.
All the other boys, meanwhile, seem to have inherited their ideas of goodness and morality from the external forces of civilization, so that the longer they are away from human society, the more their moral sense erodes. In this regard, Simon emerges as an important figure to contrast with Ralph and Jack. Where Ralph represents the orderly forces of civilization and Jack the primal, instinctual urges that react against such order, Simon represents a third quality—a kind of goodness that is natural or innate rather than taught by human society. In this way, Simon, who cannot be categorized with the other boys, complicates the symbolic structure of