Important Quotations Explained
1. Roger gathered a handful of stones and began to throw them. Yet there was a space round Henry, perhaps six yards in diameter, into which he dare not throw. Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life. Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law.
This passage from Chapter 4 describes the beginnings of Roger’s cruelty to the littluns, an important early step in the group’s decline into savagery. At this point in the novel, the boys are still building their civilization, and the civilized instinct still dominates the savage instinct. The cracks are beginning to show, however, particularly in the willingness of some of the older boys to use physical force and violence to give themselves a sense of superiority over the smaller boys. This quotation shows us the psychological workings behind the beginnings of that willingness. Roger feels the urge to torment Henry, the littlun, by pelting him with stones, but the vestiges of socially imposed standards of behavior are still too strong for him to give in completely to his savage urges. At this point, Roger still feels constrained by “parents and school and policemen and the law”—the figures and institutions that enforce society’s moral code. Before long, Roger and most of the other boys lose their respect for these forces, and violence, torture, and murder break out as the savage instinct replaces the instinct for civilization among the group.
2. His mind was crowded with memories; memories of the knowledge that had come to them when they closed in on the struggling pig, knowledge that they had outwitted a living thing, imposed their will upon it, taken away its life like a long satisfying drink.
This quotation, also from Chapter 4, explores Jack’s mental state in the aftermath of killing his first pig, another milestone in the boys’ decline into savage behavior. Jack exults in the kill and is unable to think about anything else because his mind is “crowded with memories” of the hunt. Golding explicitly connects Jack’s exhilaration with the feelings of power and superiority he experienced in killing the pig. Jack’s excitement stems not from pride at having found food and helped the group but from having “outwitted” another creature and “imposed” his will upon it. Earlier in the novel, Jack…