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Ralph sounds the conch shell and the boys gather for a meeting. A serious meeting.
We get a description of the meeting place: we know it's on a sort of platform, and now we're told it's shaped like a triangle. Ralph, as the chief, sits on a huge log, which lies parallel to the beach below. To his right is another not-so-chiefly log, and on the left four smaller logs, all of which make for seats for the boys.
Ralph gets rather philosophical here before the big meeting, pondering such relevant matters as, "If faces [are] different when lit from above or below—what [is] a face? What [is] anything?" It seems the wilderness has made Ralph question the very foundations of his knowledge.
After all this pondering, Ralph gets around to blowing the conch.
He reminds the boys of some rules: (1) (as you might have guessed) KEEP THE SIGNAL FIRE GOING, (2) don't build any other fires, and (3) do their toilet business by the rocks near the bathing pool instead of all over the island, as they have been doing (the boys snigger and laugh at this last item).
When he sets down the conch, Jack grabs it up and tells all the little children to stop acting like children. He says there is no beast (he's been all over the island), and if they're afraid they should suck it up.
There's this great moment where someone asks what a beast would eat, someone else says "pig," and yet another someone said "We eat pig."
Piggy, in a moment of astounding and unprecedented perception, states that there is no beast, and no fear, either—unless they get frightened of people. So there's nothing to fear but … themselves.
We're thinking particularly Jack.
One of the littluns (Phil) tries to declare that the beast comes out at night.
When they tell him it was a dream, he says quite adamantly no, he was dreaming that the creepers were snakes, and then after he woke up he saw something big moving in the dark.
Ralph insists it was a dream, until Simon admits he was the one mucking about in the dark.
Simon grabs the conch and explains that sometimes he likes to go hang out in this "place" in the jungle.
They keep talking about "getting taken short," which is refined British for "needing to poo." Supposedly, this is why Simon was out, but we all know that's not true.
Another littlun comes forward, and again Piggy has to hold the conch for him and coax some words out of him. This little guy is none other than Percival.
Percival gets a little nutty; he yammers off his street address, he cries, then he yawns, then he staggers, and finally he just lies down in the grass and goes to sleep, but not before telling Jack that the beast "comes out of the sea."
Simon makes a comment on "mankind's essential illness" and states that the beast is "only us."
Is it just us, or is Simon basically the smartest 12-year-old ever?
Simon tries to further his point by asking, "what's the dirtiest thing there is?"
Jack's answer, "one crude expressive syllable" (yes, you know what it is) causes the other boys to scream with delight (remember, essentially, these are proper, well-educated British boys—swearing was a big thrill for them).
As the boys laugh, Simon gives up on his effort to make them think about themselves and sits down in defeat.
Maybe the beast is a ghost?
Someone yells at Piggy to "shut up, you fat slug!" and the whole meeting begins to disintegrate.
Ralph shouts that the rules are the only thing they've got holding them together, but Jack is louder and leads a pack of boys off to search for the beast and hunt him down.
Piggy, Ralph and Simon are left in despair. Piggy wants to blow the conch, but Ralph makes the third amazing comment of the chapter, stating that, if he blows it now and no one comes back, the conch will have lost its power completely.
And then, they will all "be like animals."
He wants to give up being chief, but Piggy asks desperately what would happen then.
Simon tries to convince Ralph to go on with his duties.
There's some talk of how, if only the grown-ups were there, they'd know what to do. They would have rules and they would meet and discuss.