Study Guide

Lord of the Flies Youth

By William Golding

Youth

Chapter 1

The fair boy began to pick his way as casually as possible toward the water. He tried to be offhand and not too obviously uninterested, but the fat boy hurried after him.

"Aren't there any grownups at all?"

"I don't think so." (1.16-18)

Piggy still can't believe it. Notice that he's the one who obsesses about grownups at first—and he's also the closest thing we have to one. Why is that? What makes Piggy seem particularly grown up, and does it have anything to do with the fact that his parents are both dead?

The children gave him the same simple obedience that they had given to the men with megaphones. Some were naked and carrying their clothes; others half-naked, or more or less dressed, in school uniforms, grey, blue, fawn, jacketed or jerseyed. There were badges, mottoes even, stripes of color in stockings and pullovers. (2)

These aren't just kids; they're schoolboys, used to having every part of their life, including their clothes, decided for them. No wonder they go a little (a lot) crazy when they're left on their own.

Ralph paddled backwards down the slope, immersed his mouth and blew a jet of water into the air. Then he lifted his chin and spoke.

"I could swim when I was five. Daddy taught me. He's a commander in the Navy. When he gets leave he'll come and rescue us. What's your father?" (1)

Ralph identifies himself by his father. Without adults, the kids jockey for positions all by themselves—and that's when it gets ugly. The adult world provides structure; it lets kids know where they stand. Without that, how do they know who to follow?

"Where's the man with the megaphone?"

The fair boy shook his head.

"This is an island. At least I think it's an island. That's a reef out in the sea. Perhaps there aren't any grownups anywhere." (1.9-11)

Woohoo! No grownups! At this point, Ralph and Piggy are more Macaulay Culkin than, well, Lord of the Flies. This is the kind of no-grownups you fantasize about it. (Too bad the reality is a little more murderous.)

Chapter 2

Then, with the martyred expression of a parent who has to keep up with the senseless ebullience of the children, he picked up the conch, turned toward the forest, and began to pick his way over the tumbled scar. (2)

See? We told you Piggy was the most adult-like of all of them. Here, his grownupness seems to be mostly about getting the other kids to obey the conch.

Chapter 5

Suddenly, pacing by the water, he was overcome with astonishment. He found himself understanding the wearisomeness of this life, where every path was an improvisation and a considerable part of one's waking life was spent watching one's feet. He stopped, facing the strip; and remembering that first enthusiastic exploration as though it were part of a brighter childhood, he smiled jeeringly. (5.1)

Ralph is growing up fast—the first days on the island seem like a literal lifetime ago. And notice that adulthood is associated with "weariness"? Yeah, growing up isn't all it's cracked up to be. Take it from Shmoop.

"We're all drifting and things are going rotten. At home there was always a grownup. Please, sir; please, miss; and then you got an answer. How I wish!"

[…]

"Grownups know things," said Piggy. "They ain't afraid of the dark. They'd meet and have tea and discuss. Then things 'ud be all right-" (5)

Ha. Just wait until you grow up, Piggy; then you're the grownup who has to pretend not to be afraid of the dark and who knows all the answers. (Thanks, Google.)

"What are we? Humans? Or animals? Or savages? What's grownups going to think? Going off-hunting pigs-letting fires out-and now!" (5)

Piggy just will not let it go. The island is degenerating into anarchy, and all he can think about is what the grownups are going to think. Hint: they're probably going to be more relieved about getting their kids back than about whether a few 12-year-olds let a fire go out.

Chapter 8

[Ralph] was vexed to find how little he thought like a grownup and sighed again. The island was getting worse and worse. (8.243)

This has got to be frustrating. Ralph knows that there's a "grownup" way to think, and he knows that he's not doing it. Again—Ralph might be surprised to find out that grownups feel this way a lot of the time, too.

"I dunno, Ralph. We just got to go on, that's all. That's what grownups would do." (8.260)

It's too bad that Piggy realizes this not too long before he gets murdered. There's no secret to acting like a grownup; it's just doing one thing after another, trying to stay ahead of the bills and the plumbing problems. (Seriously.)

Chapter 12

The tears began to flow and sobs shook him. He gave himself up to them now for the first time on the island; great, shuddering spasms of grief that seemed to wrench his whole body. His voice rose under the black smoke before the burning wreckage of the island; and infected by that emotion, the other little boys began to shake and sob too. (12)

At the end, Ralph weeps. Does this make him more of a kid? You might think so, since the naval officer looks away to give him time to collect himself. But maybe it actually shows his maturity: he understands just how hopeless the whole situation is.

A little boy who wore the remains of an extraordinary black cap on his red hair and who carried the remains of a pair of spectacles at his waist, started forward, then changed his mind and stood still. (12)

From Ralph's perspective, Jack is a terrifying, painted chief; from the adult's perspective, he's a strangely dressed little boy. But which perspective is true?