Study Guide

Percival in Lord of the Flies

By William Golding

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(Click the character infographic to download.)

Poor Percival. We first hear about him when we learn that the littluns are not so much taken care of as downright neglected by the older boys. Percival can't handle it. He crawls into a shelter and "stay[s] there for two days, talking, singing, and crying, till they thought him batty and were faintly amused. Ever since then he had been peaked, red-eyed, and miserable; a littleun who played and cried often" (4.3).

The only thing Percival has is his name and address: "Percival Wemys Madison, of the Vicarage, Harcourt St. Anthony" (5, 12), which he repeats like an "incantation." Unfortunately, this "incantation" is "powerless to help" poor little Percival. The safety nets of normal civilization are completely and utterly useless here on the island. And by the time Percival meets someone who might actually help—the naval officer—he's totally forgotten it. Even weepy little Percival has been transformed by his island adventures. When Ralph weeps for the loss of innocence and the darkness of man's heart—he's weeping for Percival.

What's In a Name

One thing about his name. "Percival" is the name of one of King Arthur's knights. In most of the stories, he's innocent and naïve—so innocent that he gets to complete the quest for the Holy Grail. Can we make that association here, and say that Golding is drawing on the name Percival to make our littlun seem especially innocent and harmless? To heighten the tragic loss of innocence? We wouldn't put it past him.

Percival in Lord of the Flies Study Group

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