LITERATURE: Lord Of The Flies – Action

As the reader would come to expect, the division of the boys into two “tribes,” one an obedient group of savage hunters under Frank, who rules by fear and promise of celebration, and the other, down to four members led by Ralph, still attempting to logic things out and focused on fire, eventually will build to a major clash. This is brought about by the stealing by Frank’s tribe of Piggy’s glasses. Glasses which take away the other group’s vital focus of making fire, as well as leaving Piggy nearly blind.

This is a turning point for Ralph, where he acknowledges Piggy’s importance in his ability to think things out. With Piggy’s insistence, they make for the other’s encampment, intent on getting back the glasses. Naturally outnumbered and outweaponed by not only physical abilities, but by strength of intent, a fight ensues.

Now Jack was yelling too and Ralph could no longer make himself heard. Jack had backed right against the tribe and they were a solid mass of menace that bristled with spears. The intention of a charge was forming among them; they were working up to it and the neck would be swept clear. Ralph stood facing them, a little to one side, his spear ready. By him stood Piggy, still holding out the talisman, the fragile shining beauty of the shell. The storm of sound beat at them, an incantation of hatred. High overhead, Roger, with a sense of delirious abandonment, leaned all his weight on the lever.

Ralph heard the great rock before he saw it. He was aware of a jolt in the earth that came to him through the soles of his feet, and the breaking sound of stones at the top of the cliff. Then the monstrous red thing bounded across the neck and he flung himself flat while the tribe shrieked.

The rock struck Piggy a glancing blow from chin to knee, the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist. Piggy, saying nothing, with no time for even a grunt, traveled through the air sideways, turning over as he went. The rock bounded twice and was lost in the forest. Piggy fell forty feet and landed on his back across the square red rock in the sea. (pg. 180)

It takes superior skill as a writer to create an action scene like this, particularly when it is a conflict that has been so carefully built up to. While Golding does a good job with it, I can’t help but recognize the obvious superiority of film over text in this case.

As a reader, I can see Ralph in his scared but determined position to regain his position as chief. Piggy’s natural fear compounded by his inability to see clearly what’s going on. Jack’s anger at being challenged. The rock coming down on the group and the threat it poses to all. But I must admit that words in this case could never achieve what can be done with audio and action video. For example, the nuances of the two boys as they face off. Just a lingering on their posturing, a moment spent on their facial expressions. Then the sudden trembling of the huge rock as it is let loose. I can imagine a scene where they all look up, perhaps even the rock rolling in slow motion for dramatic effect. The noise, the silence, the aftermath. The symbolic conch shell exploding into flying bits of sparkling confetti.

Too, with a large cast of characters here that we’ve come to know as individuals, it’s not easy to remember who was standing where, who is speaking, shouting, lunging, running. A visual of this scene would be more effective as the mind would have no need to remember structure and places. It would be like digging into your pocket and bringing out a handful of coins and without having to count, pick out the two quarters, a nickle, a penny, and know it was fifty-six cents.


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