Curriculum Vital

The Education Umbrella Guide to Lord of the Flies
Chapter ten: 'The Shell and the Glasses'
Summary and analysis

This chapter summary is part of the Education Umbrella Guide to Lord of the Flies. Free to download or store in our Education Cloud, the guide features chapter-by-chapter summary and analysis, analysis of the symbols and objects, character profiles, and a scheme of work. 

Questions? Comments? Contact Ross: rgrainger@educationumbrella.com

Summary

Piggy eyed the advancing figure carefully. 

Ralph and Piggy assess their situation. Of the bigguns, only Sam and Eric remain with them. Piggy retains faith in the power of the conch, but Ralph has grown sceptical.

Ralph and Piggy discuss the murder of Simon. Both deny that they played a part in it. They insist that they both remained on the outside of the circle. Sam and Eric return from collecting firewood. They delicately inquire about the dance that took place, having claimed that they left the feast early.

Meanwhile, at Jack’s camp, Roger returns to find the entrance guarded. The boys now refer to Jack as ‘the Chief’.

The Chief declares that there will be another hunt tomorrow, followed by a feast. He adds that they must still be wary of the beast; that the beast may have disguised itself.

One of the boys asks how they will start the fire. The Chief orders two of the boys to join him in a raid on Ralph’s camp.

At Ralph’s camp, Eric’s morale drops. He wonders aloud why it is worth keeping the fire alight. Piggy reminds him that without the fire there is no hope of rescue.

That night, in the darkness, Ralph’s camp is attacked. The conch remains, but Piggy’s glasses have been taken. The chapter ends with the Chief walking triumphantly away with the glasses in his hand.

Analysis

The title of chapter 10 can be read as Order vs. Savagery. The shell, or conch, represents law, order and morality, while the glasses, for Jack’s tribe of savages, represents the promise not of rescue, but of meat.

One might argue that the nutritional value of meat justifies the hunters’ actions, but to Jack and his tribe meat satisfies a lust for blood more than a desire for good health. Furthermore, their hunting strategy, fuelled by insatiable desire, is unsustainable. The wiser course of action would have been to attempt to domesticate the pigs, but the hunters, in their savagery, kill the sow, the mother pig, dooming the litter. The boys’ hunting satisfies immediate desires, not long-term needs.

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The Chief was sitting there, naked to the waist, his face blocked out in white and red. The tribe lay in a semicircle before him. The newly beaten and untied Wilfred was sniffing noisily in the background. Roger squatted with the rest.

Jack now displays all the traits of a tyrannical dictator. Like the pig Napoleon in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, he has created a personality cult, enjoys special privileges (a throne-like seat), goes by a new and grander title (the Chief), employs arbitrary violence as a means of intimidation (the unexplained beating of Wilfred), and uses a phantom enemy (the beast) to terrify his followers. He tolerates no questioning of his authority, and masks his strategic deficiencies with bravado and brutality (face paint, violent punishment, hunting). Like Hitler, Jack is both scornful of and dependent on the people he claims to despise, in his case Piggy.

In case there were any doubt, the narrator now refers to Jack as ‘the Chief’ and his followers as ‘savages’.

Questions? Comments? Contact Ross: rgrainger@educationumbrella.com

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