Study Guide

Lord of the Flies by William Golding: Chapter 4 Summary

By William Golding

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Lord of the Flies: Chapter 4 Summary

Painted Faces and Long Hair

  • More unspecified time has passed. The boys have developed a sort of rhythm in their lives that involves the littluns playing together, the biguns (Jack and the choir boys) still hunting pigs, and the other boys (Ralph, Simon, and Piggy) trying to build shelters and keep the signal fire going.
  • BTW, there are sharks in the water beyond the reef.
  • One littlun named Percival cries all the time and everyone thinks he's a little crazy.
  • The biguns and littluns have become rather separate groups, although Simon, Maurice, and Roger are walking a fine line because of their size (in general, though, it seems they are considered biguns).
  • Being a littlun is terrible, since no one really takes care of them. They've built and decorated sandcastles near the little river, which has become their play and general dwelling area.
  • We see Henry, the biggest of the littluns, hanging out with the smallest (Percival and Johnny). The children are "at peace" until Roger and Maurice come along and step on their sandcastles, with Roger in the lead and Maurice feeling a little guilty.
  • Once again, can you guess which one will end up being evil incarnate?
  • Roger follows Henry as he wanders off to an overlook; below, Ralph, Simon, Piggy, and Maurice are splashing in the pool (the small and naturally-occurring kind, not the cabana kind).
  • Roger throws stones at Henry. Well, kind of. He misses on purpose because he still has some semblance of decency left, at least for the time being.
  • Jack calls to Roger; he's with Sam, Eric, and Bill and still on this pig-hunting kick.
  • Jack refers to the twins as "Samneric."
  • After going through with the face painting plan, using white and red clay and a stick of charcoal, Jack looks at his reflection in a coconut shell full of water and is stoked to see an "awesome stranger" looking back at him. He begins to dance, and it seems that the mask is a "thing on its own, behind which Jack hid."
  • When he orders the boys to come with him, they obey "the mask," not Jack. Creepy stuff.
  • Meanwhile, back at the lagoon, Ralph, Simon and Piggy are still swimming with Maurice.
  • Piggy suggests that they should make a sundial, but, as has become general habit, no one takes his suggestions seriously.
  • Suddenly, Ralph spots a ship.
  • Much excitement follows.
  • Is the signal fire still lit? Ralph dashes up the mountain to see, "doing desperate violence to his naked body among the rasping creepers so that blood was sliding over him." (Yes—still naked.)
  • But before he goes, Simon seems to know what's up. He "crie[s] out as though he [has] hurt himself" and tries to touch Ralph's face. Interesting!
  • As you might have guessed, the signal fire has gone out.
  • By the time they stop panicking, the ship has disappeared.
  • So, where are the (former) choir boys who were supposed to be tending the fire?
  • Everyone looks down from the mountain and sees a procession of choir boys who have finally ditched the black robes and joined in the public nudity. But, they're still ominously wearing their black caps.
  • They are also, equally ominously, led by Jack, carrying a dead pig on a stake, and chanting: "Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Spill her blood."
  • Jack and his posse tell the tale of how they killed the pig.
  • Ralph stares at them, expressionless, and finally says, "You let the fire go out."
  • Jack and Co. experience that "oops" feeling, accompanied by a side of intense guilt.
  • Piggy rails on them for being irresponsible, so naturally Jack punches Piggy in the face.
  • Simon finds the glasses and reveals that a lens is broken, which leaves Piggy with vision in just one eye. Oops.
  • Finally, Jack breaks down and apologizes.
  • Standing still and stoic, Ralph simply commands them to rebuild the fire. Huzzah: he reasserts his chieftainship, the choir boys rebuild the fire away while Ralph just stands there and glares at them until he finally comes with what's left of Piggy's glasses to light the fire.
  • Piggy is obviously not comfortable with his only means to sight being used this way; he snatches the "specs" back immediately, as the boys begin to roast the pig they killed, ripping off hunks of meat and devouring it like wolves.
  • In his attempt to be indignant and above everyone, Ralph tries to not eat any of the meat Jack is roasting.
  • That lasts about two seconds once the smell reaches his nose; remember, they've been eating nothing but fruit and plants since they got to the island.
  • No one hands Piggy any meat, and when Jack gives him a hard time about his not helping with the hunt, Simon gives his own food to Piggy.
  • Jack is furious, and yells at Simon to "Eat! Damn you!" He basically realizes he has no power over the boys unless they eat the meat he got for them all.
  • The hunters describe their kill again in gory detail, and continue their chant of "Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Bash her in."
  • Awesome. The boys are becoming violent barbarians and fast.
  • Ralph decides to call another meeting—because that seems like it's going to work—and walks down the mountain.

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