The Character Development of Ralph

by Philip Smith and J.V. Bertotti


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At the beginning of the book, the character of Ralph represents order and civilization. He is elected the leader of the group by the other boys. While everyone else is interested in playing, Ralph insists on doing activities that would maximize their chances of being rescued, such as building huts and signal fires. As the book goes on, more people abandon Ralph as their leader and turn to jack. This represents their loss of civilization and order. But Ralph still insists on staying civilized and maintaining the signal fire. Towards the end of the book, most of the people have left Ralph for jack, and also given up the orderous and civilized ways of Ralph for the savagery and instinctual survival of jack. Throughout all of this though, Ralph does not succumb to savegeryand still believes that civilization is their best way of being rescued. This shows the strength that ralph has for himself and his beliefs. It also shows the power that civilization and democracy have.


In lord of the flies, William Golding uses the characterization of Ralph as a symbol of civilization and order who is rebelled against throughout the book.

Quotes and Analysis

Quote 1

"And another thing. We can't have everybody talking at once. We'll have to have 'Hands up' like at school...Then I'll give them the conch...He can hold it when he's speaking...And he won't be interrupted. Except by me." (pg. 31)

Through characterization in this quote, we can tell that Ralph is using logic and democratic ways in order to show how order will be more effective than chaos. It also shows us that in this point in the book, he is strongly holding on to the beliefs of democracy and civilization.

Quote 2

"His mouth was tight and pale. He put back his hair very slowly.....He forced his feet to move until they carried him out on to the neck of the land" (p. 130).

This quote shows that Ralph is becoming more of a powerful character in the book, and furthers the battle between civilization and savegery. This quote also shows that Ralph is being a character that has an outstanding impact within not only his tribe, but with his rival jack.

Quote 3

"I'm chief," said Ralph, "because you chose me. And we were going to keep the fire going. Now you run after food--" (pg. 216)

This quote shows that in this part of the book, Ralph is becoming more of a forceful character, and is struggling to hold on to democracy. It also shows the he is heavily relying on fire going, which is a symbol for civilization.

Concluding Thoughts

Ralphs purpose throughout the book is to represent order and democracy. William Golding shows this throughout the book with the use of characterization. Golding also uses Ralph as a contrast between jack in order to represent the battle between order and chaos.

Discussion Questions

What is Ralph's purpose in the book, and how does William Golding show it throughout the book?

How does William Golding contrast the ways of Ralph and Jack throughout the book?

What kind of role did Ralph have towards Piggy, Simon, Eric, and Sam?