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Lord of the Flies by William Golding: Chapter 12 Summary

By William Golding

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Lord of the Flies: Chapter 12 Summary

Cry of the Hunters

  • Ralph is completely alone now—no Piggy, no Simon, no Samneric.
  • He hides in the thick underbrush, wondering what to do about the rather serious wound on his ribs.
  • He can't wash himself without risking capture, so he just lies there, trying to think.
  • At one point, peering out from his hiding spot, he sees a painted face—Bill. But no; this wasn't Bill. It was a savage who had nothing to do with Bill.
  • Finally, as the sunlight starts to fade, he sneaks over to the edge of the thicket so he can see what Jack and his group are doing.
  • The smoke is rising and he can smell the pig they are roasting. Ralph is hungry.
  • He tries to convince himself that they will leave him alone, that everything was an accident and that "they're not as bad as that." It doesn't work.
  • He makes his way back to the beach and on the way comes to a clearing in the forest.
  • Yes, it is the same clearing we saw before, the one with the Lord of the Flies, now checking out Ralph "like one who knows all the answers and won't tell."
  • Ralph smashes the skull with his fists, bruising his knuckles in the process, but even afterwards still thinks the head is grinning (its smile is just wider now that it's been split open). He grabs the spear on which the head had been impaled and makes off.
  • As night falls, Ralph goes back to Castle Rock to stare at the savages and Jack.
  • He is completely isolated and lonely. He wonders if he can't just wander into the fort, as though it were a game, say "I've got pax" and laugh about it. After all, aren't these the same boys who said "Sir" and wore caps?
  • Not so much. The tribe—including Sam and Eric—is dancing and chanting, "Kill the beast. Cut his throat! Spill his blood!"
  • Ralph is at the end of his rope—Piggy is dead, Samneric are savages. There is no signal fire. The conch is smashed to powder. The whole situation sucks unbelievably.
  • Eventually, Ralph sneaks down and calls out softly to Sam and Eric. They come over, but they don't want to—they tell Ralph to go away.
  • Ralph begins to say "If it were light–" and the narration tells us that, if it were light, the boys would burn in shame.
  • Sam and Eric say "they hurt us," and reveal that Jack is planning to hunt him (Ralph) tomorrow, starting early in the morning.
  • And by hunt, they mean kill.
  • Ralph begs them to come with him, but they are obviously too scared: Roger and the chief are both terrors, but Roger…
  • But Roger what? We don't find out, but we're guessing it's pretty bad.
  • Also bad: Ralph has sharpened a stick on both ends.
  • Weird.
  • Hearing footsteps approaching, Samneric quickly hand Ralph a hunk of meat and then run off.
  • Ralph eats and falls asleep in the thicket near the camp, still wondering what this sharpened stick business means.
  • (Do you get it? It means Ralph is going to get a little Lord of the Flies treatment himself.)
  • When he wakes up, he realizes that Jack is just feet away, right outside the thicket where he's hiding.
  • Ralph gets ready to fight, and sees the boys throwing great rocks (à la the killing-Piggy method) toward the dense thicket he's hiding in. The red rocks go past him and roll towards the sea.
  • That doesn't work, so the boys try to smoke him out with a fire.
  • Ralph worms his way back through the thicket (away from the smoke) and toward the forest.
  • A small savage is waiting for him as he emerges, but the poor little guy is rubbing the smoke out of his eyes.
  • No time for sympathy! Ralph stabs the little boy and runs away.
  • Now what? Climb a tree? Just keep running? Sit down and cry? Piggy was the brains of this operation.
  • Finally, Ralph decides to hide again, lunging into the deepest tangle of creepers he can find.
  • As he lies there, he realizes the fire that the savages set to smoke him out has spread, once again much like wildfire.
  • While under the vines, Ralph suddenly sees the legs of a savage moving toward him.
  • The savage is holding a stick that is… sharpened on both ends. Dun dun dun.
  • Ralph tells himself not to scream and tries to hold still—when the savage's face peers underneath the vines.
  • Ralph screams and plunges out, snarling and bloody. He swings at the savage until the guy falls, but there are others coming.
  • He runs away as a spear flies past him.
  • What follows is one of the best, heart-pounding chase scenes ever, as Ralph runs desperately through the forest, trying to evade the savages.
  • He hears them all crashing through the underbrush as they give chase.
  • Ralph stumbles over a root and falls, just as he sees one of their shelters burst into flame.
  • As he rolls down the hill, he realizes he's close to the water's edge.
  • Well, this is it. Ralph covers himself with his arms and cries for mercy.
  • When he finally opens his eyes and staggers to his feet, he's staring up at a white-topped cap with a gold anchor on the brim.
  • Whoa! A naval officer! They're both pretty surprised to see each other.
  • Behind him, Ralph can see a ship in the water, its "bows hauled up and held by two ratings." And, in the "stern-sheets another rating [holds] a sub-machine gun."
  • The officer says "hello" and Ralph suddenly realizes how filthy he is.
  • Any adults on the island? Nope. Just a semicircle of boys, their bodies "streaked with colored clay, sharp sticks in their hands."
  • The officer assumes they've been playing a game and asks jokingly if anyone was killed.
  • Ralph answers, "Only two" and makes it clear the bodies are gone.
  • The officer finally catches on that he is serious and whistles softly.
  • The whole island is "shuddering with flame," and other boys appear, coming out of the jungle, brown and with distended bellies. Little Percival comes running—he tries to start his incantation (name and address, which comforted him so much before) but he can't remember it.
  • The officer asks who's boss and Ralph says loudly, "I am."
  • Jack starts to protest but thinks better of it.
  • Remember how he was described as a freaky, painted idol? Now he's just "a little boy who wore the remains of a […] black cap on his red hair."
  • Irony alert: instead of Ralph's precious signal fire, it is the smoke that Jack created—in an attempt to kill Ralph—that the rescuers saw.
  • The adult gives them a little lecture, saying that a group of British boys should have put up a better show than this.
  • Ralph tries to explain that it was good at first, and the officer nods, adding that it was "like the Coral Island," another book about boys stranded on an island.
  • Now that he's finished running for his life, Ralph has time to think about what's happened. He begins to cry, sobbing for the first time about "the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy."
  • The officer is a little embarrassed and turns away to give the boys time to pull themselves together, letting his eyes rest on the "trim cruiser in the distance."
  • Oh, and that trim cruiser? It's involved in an equally violent and bloody war—so maybe that officer shouldn't be giving anyone any lectures.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding: Chapter 12 Summary Study Group

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