Chapter TWO: Fire on the Mountain
More chapters coming soon...
The group dynamic of Ralph-Piggy-Jack becomes obvious in this chapter. The beast is mentioned for the first time and the boy with the 'mulberry-mark' is killed, unwittingly by the fire which gets out of control.
All boys are feeling the ‘smart of sunburn’, and the Choir is now ‘less of a group’ and have ‘discarded their cloaks’.
Piggy is ‘near but giving no help’
Ralph is talking to the group. He says the island is “uninhabited”
Jack “you need an army - for hunting.” Golding makes prominent the fact that he has a ‘knife’ and acts ‘challengingly’.
When Ralph speaks, we feel his childishness even as he takes charge: "There aren’t any grown-ups.” “We’ll have to have ‘Hands up’ like at school.”
Jack's reaction is interesting: “We’ll have rules!” “Then when anyone breaks ‘em-”
“Whee-oh!” / “Wacco!” / “Boing!” / “Doink!”
[this childish language suggests pleasure in violence]
Piggy interrupts, talking about “the most important thing” - he points out that “Nobody knows where we are.”
Ralph: “But this is a good island” “it’s wizard”
The mood is disturbed by one of the 'littluns': a ‘shrimp’ of a boy with a ‘mulberry-coloured birthmark’, who is ‘about to cry’ ‘in panic’.
Nudging him, the other littluns talk of: “the snake-thing” or “beastie”
How do the others react?
Ralph says the boy is “dreaming”; it's a “nightmare”
Yet, there is ‘no laughter’
Jack says, confusingly: "There isn’t a snake thing. But if there was we’d hunt it and kill it.”
Ralph “But I tell you there isn’t a beast.”
How do they reassure themselves?
Ralph says that they will be rescued, as “the Queen’s got a picture of this island.”
Then the boys all race to make a fire. Piggy complains at them hastily rushing to build a fire: “Like kids!” he said scornfully.’
As the boys are looking for fuel, Golding uses the semantic field of ‘decay’, ‘decayed’ ‘dead thing’, ‘grotesque’, ‘declining sun’ ‘rotten wood’
Ralph and Jack find a log which Ralph says is: “Almost too heavy.” Jack replies: “Not for the two of us.” [this is a sweet picture of co-operation and togetherness, which Golding immediately undermines. None of the boys know how to set fire to the wood they have collected]
‘the shameful knowledge grew in them’ ‘they did not know how to begin confession’ of their ‘incompetence’
Ralph blurts out: “Has anyone got any matches”
Jack: ‘His specs - use them as burning glasses!’
Piggy yells: “Give ‘em back! I can hardly see!”
Ralph: “That was no good” ... “There wasn’t any smoke. Only flame.”
Piggy ‘We couldn’t keep a fire like that going.’
“A fat lot you tried” Jack says.
Simon tries to conciliate: “We used his specs.”
Jack “The conch doesn’t count on top of the mountain,” said Jack, “so you shut up.” [ironically, he then says:] “we’re not savages. We’re English; and the English are best at everything.”
Piggy speaks ‘with bitter realism’ “If I say anything ... you say shut up’
The Fire Gets out of Control
‘the fire laid hold on the forest and began to gnaw’ ‘a quarter of a mile square of forest was savage with smoke and flame’ The boys are silent ‘feeling the beginnings of awe at the power set free below them’
‘Piggy glanced nervously into hell’ “That was our firewood” We should “put first things first”
He says they should have built shelters first, and counted and named the little uns who were wandering near where the fire is now burning.
Piggy: “That little ‘un ... him with the mark on his face, I don’t see him. Where is he now?”
the boys are ‘silent as death’ ‘A tree exploded in the fire like a bomb.’
‘The boys looked at each other fearfully’, ‘on the unfriendly side of the mountain’, Ralph speaks ‘as if in shame’
It is never established if the boy with the mulberry mark is killed, though we can assume that he is.
The author, Melanie Kendry, is an Oxford graduate, outstanding-rated English Language and Literature teacher of ages 10-18 in the British education system. In 2012, she was nominated for Pearson's Teaching Awards. As a private tutor, she raises grades often from C to A. Her writing is also featured in The Huffington Post.