Lord of the Flies Chapter 12 "Cry of the Hunters"
Ralph at last settles in an area of forest which he thinks he is safe, nursing the wounds and scratches from the trees which now cover his body. Intense description is now given to his senses, what he hears and sees. He attempts to rationalize, wondering what shall happen next, thinking for a fleeting moment that they would leave him alone. The old idealism continues to show through, going so far as allowing him to think about the murder of Piggy: "'They're not as bad as that. It was an accident.'" Chapter 12, pg. 168 He at last realizes this is an impossibility, for "[t]hen there was that indefinable connection between himself and Jack; who therefore would never let him alone...." Chapter 12, pg. 168 The two appear to be very much the same in character as described by their actions, having mirrored one another when engaged in battle.
Arriving at some fruit trees, Ralph feasts hungrily. Some littluns flee screaming when they see his unsightly appearance. He then comes across the same clearing where Simon had confronted The Lord of the Flies, where still stands the pig's head on the stick. Now only a hairless skull remains--all flesh has been consumed by the hundreds of flies which were surrounding it earlier. Punching the skull from fear, Ralph takes up the stick which had held it. The skull, now split into two pieces, continues to grin up at the sky. Continuing onwards in the dark of night, he nears Castle Rock again where Samneric are now described, like all the rest of the boys, as "savages." Behind the outline of these two, "A star appeared...and was momentarily eclipsed by some movement." Chapter 12, pg. 170. The presence of the star recalls again the scene of Simon's dead body and the description of the drop of water on the conch, shortly before the death of Piggy. Now a star is described, not only "covered" but undergoing an "eclipse," the covering of one heavenly body over another.
Ralph approaches and calls out to his two old friends, Samneric, but they usher him away out of fear, at first "gibbering" incoherently and then explaining that the hunters had hurt them. They warn Ralph that when the morning came, the hunters would all be hunting Ralph and how they had "'to be careful and throw...spears like at a pig.'" Chapter 12, pg. 172. The boy Ralph is viewed by the tribe the same as a pig--a thing to be hunted. The twins warn him that Roger had "sharpened a stick at both ends," implying that Ralph's head would also sit upon a stake as an offering to the beast. After giving Ralph a chunk of meat, Ralph leave and returns to hiding in order to sleep, reverting briefly to his old nostalgia, even now wishing for his home with its civilized things like "a bed and sheets." As he closes his eyes, cries of pain from Samneric are heard.
Ralph awakens at dawn to the sound of a noise nearby, stirring him. Rising, he enters the thicket in which the boulder which had been used to murder Piggy had passed through, observing the damage. Next there is the commotion of Jack speaking to one of the twins, saying "Are you sure?" implying that his hiding place had been disclosed by them. As he sits quietly listening and seeing everything around him, enormous boulders begin to roll past, tossed from Castle Rock; Ralph thinks of how one rock that remains there is "half as big as a cottage, big as a car, a tank." Chapter 12, pg. 176. Savages begin to fan out all around Ralph's hiding place and finally, with one directly adjacent he stabs his spear hard into its leg, twisting it. "A babble of voices" is heard and, still crouched in his hiding place, Ralph "showed his teeth at the wall of branches....snarled a little, and waited." Chapter 12, pg. 177. Ralph himself begins to act like a savage. Smoke begins to fill the area and he, realizing that they have set the entire island aflame to drive him out into the open, ponders what to do next. This brings up the fire of the first night, when they set the island aflame after lighting a signal fire for the first time--what was begun then is now nearing its end.
Viewing the scene, the savages are all masked in different colors. This is made quite clear in the description of one in "brown, black, and red" and another "striped red and white" at which "Ralph launched himself like a cat; stabbed, snarling, with the spear, and the savage doubled up." Chapter 12, pp. 177-8. Even as he thinks of these enemies as savages, he himself seems to have become consumed in the same aggression and desire to hurt others which they carry. Hiding again under a bush and still being hunted, he ponders what to do next, urging himself to think. "What was the sensible thing to do? There was no Piggy to talk sense." Chapter 12, pg. 179. Without Piggy who had urged him along thus far and maintained his focus, Ralph is lost. At last he compares his thoughts to those of a pig, wondering "if a pig would agree."
Lamenting vainly that the fire has begun to burn the fruit trees, he worries still about "[w]hat would they eat tomorrow?" He compares his movement to an animal again, "[c]ouldn't a fire outrun a galloping horse?" Chapter 12, pg. 180. His thoughts begin to race with a mirage of painted faces around him, all "savages" and Simon's old words of comfort return, "You'll get back." Chapter 12, pg. 181. Now screaming again and "foaming" he attacks again and breaking into a full sprint he runs out, tailed by all of the hunters now screaming and shouting as all around him the fire burns, consuming everything. Finally nearing the beach, "[h]e saw a shelter burst into flames and the fire flapped at his right shoulder...." Chapter 12, pg. 182.
Stumbling out of the forest and into the sand, ending at last with no place left to run--stuck against the water, he falls down, covering his face with his arms in a last defensive cry for mercy, preparing for the approach of the savages. Rising to his feet, he looks up at the sight of a grown-up, a naval officer in full dress uniform. Behind him a cutter sits on the beach "her bow hauled up and held by two ratings. In the stern-sheets another rating held a sub-machine gun." Chapter 12, pg. 182. The officer asks Ralph if there are grown-ups with him; as if in a daze he shakes his head. Running up behind Ralph come all of the other "savages" now reduced to what they are: "a semi-circle of little boys, their bodies streaked with colored clay, sharp sticks in their hands...." Chapter 12, pg. 182-3. They no longer hunters but boys; they wear not elaborate paint but clay; they carry not spears but sticks. Behind them, the island continues to be consumed by flame, burning at last the coconut trees bordering the beach.
Claiming that the smoke from the huge blaze on the island, set by Jack's hunters, had drawn them there, the officer asks Ralph if they were having some sort of "war" to which he responds "yes" and states that two had already been killed. Percival walks up to introduce himself as he had before with full name and address, but now he stops only after "I'm--, I'm--" for he has forgotten his identity. After Ralph declares he is the boss there, the officer expresses disappointment at the state they had gotten themselves into saying, "'I should have thought that a pack of British boys...would have been able to put up a better show than that....'" Chapter 12, pg. 184. Ralph struggles for an answer and the officer, attempting to be helpful, replies that it must have been an adventure for them, "Like the Coral Island." This comparison was used at the book's onset in expressing the boys' original excitement of being stranded on a tropical island.
Thinking back to this, and recalling all that had happened with the murders and breakdown of the society he had tried so hard to maintain until their rescue, Ralph begins to cry; the others all join him and the sobs rise up, overwhelming the officer who turns his back to glance at the naval cruiser out in the water. No longer savages, the arrival of a grown-up and "civilization" turns them from savages back to what they were in the beginning--a group of lost boys. "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." Chapter 12, pg. 184 Piggy's name, the voice of reason, is invoked here one last time, counterbalanced by the mention of "the darkness of man's heart." Everything returns to what it was and, at last, the boys are rescued by naval officers who came across their ruined island in a British ship of war.