Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Chapter 2

Fire on the Mountain

Later that evening, Ralph calls another meeting by blowing on the conch. He conveys to the group of kids that they are on an island with no grown ups (The number of kids is not fully known -- and will never be known -- but we assume it is around thirty. Most of them are very small, possibly five or six years old and are called "littluns." The rest are near Ralph's age, possibly twelve years old.) Also, Jack insists on having an army of hunters and begins talking excitedly about the piglet.

At this time Ralph lays down some rules. First, when someone wishes to speak at an assembly he must hold the conch shell. No one is allowed to interrupt the holder of the conch except Ralph. The conch begins to symbolize the organization of society and the rules that such a society must uphold to function.

They speak excitedly about their new temporary home, how it is a "good island" and how much fun it will be. Then, a littlun with a large birthmark on his face steps forward to speak. He is given the conch shell. The child tells of a "beastie" that he saw in the dark, lurking on the island. It looked like a snake and is the first manifestation of the Beast. It is argued whether or not such a beast could live on a small island. Ralph doesn't think so, but nonetheless he feels himself "facing something ungraspable." Jack says his hunters will kill the beast if, indeed, it does exist.

Ralph then introduces another prevailing symbol of the novel: the signal fire. He will make it paramount that a signal fire be maintained to aid in their rescue. At mention of creating such a fire at the top of the mountain, the children become excited and rush off, lead by Jack, to the summit to see if they can complete such a task -- to really prove they can make it on their own. Ralph follows, and Piggy comments that they are acting like "a crowd of kids." This is ironic, because they are a crowd of kids. It shows how Piggy is set apart from the group; that he is more mature and does not throw caution to the wind as Jack does.

A huge pile of gathered wood is made on the top of the mountain. Jack, against Piggy's protest, grabs his specs to light the fire with and soon it is blazing. Piggy comments that the effort was wasted because the fire produced little smoke. Jack begins arguing with him. Piggy tells Jack that he has the conch, thus he should not be interrupted, but Jack says, "The conch doesn't count on top of the mountain, so you shut up." Jack is beginning to dislike the rules of the conch.

The group of hunters are divided up to take shifts keeping the fire going. It is then noticed that the sparks from the now-dead fire have ignited half the forest below the mountain. Piggy speaks out against the group's immaturity. He tells them that they ought to be more responsible, they don't even know how many kids are on the island. Jack argues against him. Piggy points to the inferno and asks where the boy with the birthmark is. Nobody knows he has been killed by the fire, by the lack of responsibility, the rampant adventure and maybe something else that is present in the boys. He is the first to die and the boys can only stare at the fire, marveling with horror at what they have done.