The ability to create characters of depth plagues many a contemporary writer. Many of those writers should look to William Golding for expertise on this issue. Golding diverges from the path of contemporary authors and sets an example of how character development should be accomplished in his novel, Lord of the Flies. Golding's Ralph exemplifies this author's superior style of character development in this novel.
At the commencement of the novel, the author introduces Ralph as an innocent boy far from adulthood. Almost immediately, Ralph is described as a "fair boy." This phrase indicates a stereotype of the perfect child--blonde hair and blue eyes with blemish-free skin--which the author manipulated to show innocence. Also, Golding used this to give the reader a feeling of Ralph's position on the scale of maturation. It guides the destination of the novel and how much Ralph needs to grow to attain complete maturity. Ralph's innocence is further implied when he says his daddy is "a commander in the Navy" and that "when he gets leave, he'll come rescue us." Clearly, Ralph's comments call attention to his inability to view matters, especially his current situation, realistically, and to show Ralph's simplistic thinking, as well. Later in the novel, Ralph views Piggy as a fat bore with "ass-mar" and "matter-of-fact ideas." Ralph is still at the point where he believes that he is on a schoolyard playground where teasing and handstands are an acceptable practice. Similarly, Ralph's thoughts are intended to show what a sheltered child he has been all his life. Thus far, Golding developed Ralph so that the reader interprets him as an ideal child without any indication of maturity. The author will build upon this to transform Ralph as a character and as a person.
As the climax approaches, Ralph begins to mature slightly as chaos erupts. After Ralph discovers that a ship passed while the fire was out and Jack is culpable, Ralph confronts him and rather than acquiescing to Ralph, Jack takes out his anger, physically on Piggy, the only person at that time intimidated by Jack. Ralph responds by saying Jack's tantrum is a "dirty trick" and tells them to light the fire. All this infers that Ralph is becoming less gregarious and a bit more serious. He shows maturity when he takes up for the underdog and does not go along with the majority. Golding used this to show that the trials of the island's events are starting to become more apparent to Ralph and that perhaps he is acting more like the leader he was elected to be. Now, Ralph decides the group must have an emergency meeting to discuss the events that have taken place on the island and thinks to himself, "This meeting must not be fun, but business." For obvious reasons, this means a great deal to the plot by showing Ralph's "adult side," but likewise, the author wants to show how far Ralph's leadership abilities have come since the onset of the novel. These thoughts also separate him from the others because they do not have the ability to be serious on the island. Farther along, Ralph notices the signal fire is out once again by declaring to the whole group, "There's no signal showing. There may be a ship out there. Are you all off your rockers?" Ralph is beginning to deviate from the majority of the group, consisting of primarily hunters now. Golding knows that innocent children do not do this and therefore includes it into the novel to emphasize how Ralph alone is beginning to attain adulthood. The climactic events are imminent as Ralph becomes more assertive and authoritative than ever, and closer to his loss of innocence.
During the events that surround the devastation of the island, Ralph shows that he is more of an adult than any of the "barbarians" roaming the island. After being a part of Simon's death, Ralph revisits the event in his head and cannot believe that he was part of a "murder." Ralph is the only character on the island to view Simon's death as illicit, hence demonstrating further maturation. Golding manifests this because he wants his readers to fully understand Ralph's journey from the day of mirth when he exclaimed, "no grown-ups." Farther along, while speaking to Piggy, Ralph wants to go to Castle Rock looking like they "used to, washed and hair brushed." He then adds that they "aren't savages really and being rescued isn't a game." This remark almost sounds like sarcasm after reading the earlier chapters and that Ralph is saying them is almost ludicrous. The author is quickly maturing Ralph as a real child might mature if given his circumstance. Many contemporary authors would be unable to develop Ralph as realistically as Golding has. Later, as Ralph tries to escape the vengeance of the hunters, he lies "there in the darkness" realizing he is "an outcast" and rationalizes this by verbally saying to himself, "Cause I had some sense." At this point in the novel, Ralph has accomplished the mighty task of becoming an adult and furthermore, will never have a childhood similar to the one he had before the "scar," before Piggy and Simon, and especially before Jack. Ralph's childhood is replaced now by a maturity many adults never attain, thus setting him far ahead of the rest. Golding culminated the novel with the destruction of the island and where "Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy." Only mature adults remember true friends, weep for the end of innocence, and are capable of destroying an island. Golding intended the maturity to come fast in the end as it would come in life and to show that Ralph is now an adult.
In conclusion, Golding showed
his readers what most of the world does not realize, that innocence is
perhaps the most important thing in the world that no one ever has forever.
The novel shows society how imperative it is to embrace, not hurry along,
youth. Golding does a superior job at this by developing Ralph into a young
man unlike any other author can do. He accomplishes this by harnessing
the power of literature for the goodness of humankind and not for any other
reason. It is for all these reasons that William Golding should be remembered
as a master of character development that most contemporary authors ought
to look to.
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