It is argued that ‘Gift for the Darkness’ is the most important chapter in the novel because it is not only a pivotal point in the story line, but also holds significant symbolic value at various points during the chapter.
Right from the start of the chapter we see major changes in the main characters. After fleeing from the mountain top after apparently seeing the Beast (the dead parachutist) the boys are in a state of panic. In their terrified state there is now no denying from the boys of the beasts existence. Even Ralph who had previously tried to dispel rumours of the beast has ‘seen’ it and so has been swamped by the fear affecting the other boys. The fact that Ralph now believes in the beast also has a resounding effect on Piggy. Although Piggy has a high devotion to scientific thought and logic, his immense loyalty to Ralph causes him to (very reluctantly) believe in the beast, ‘Are you sure? Really sure, I mean?’ This is extremely difficult for Piggy to except because it is completely defying his world view. Now that these two characters, who represent civilisation and logic, believe in the beast even they are questioning their own morals and beliefs. For the first time in the novel, we are seeing big chips in Ralph’s previously floorless leadership. When Piggy asks him what they are going to do Ralph responds, ‘I don’t know’.
With the discovery of the Beast there is anarchy amongst the boys and from this point onward, the remaining civilisation and culture in their society quickly begins to diminish. Jack ceases this opportunity to call his own meeting during which he continues to stir up the boys’ fear of the beast and accuses Ralph of bad leadership. He twists Ralph’s words in an attempt to turn everyone against Ralph, ‘And the next thing is Ralph said my hunters were no good.’ This shows how Jack is using the Beast in his ascent to power. When Jack asks everyone to vote whether Ralph should be chief or not, he is deeply shocked and embarrassed by the outcome. They want Ralph to remain leader. Despite the fear caused by the sighting of the Beast, the outcome of the vote shows that the boys are still more inclined towards Ralph’s civility than Jack’s savagery.
However it is obvious that there is much tension amongst the boys over their decision. Once Jack has left and Ralph begins trying to return order he realises that many of the boys had vanished and gone to join Jack. This is important because it further highlights the two warring factions of the book and the gulf forming between them. This gulf becomes even more apparent when Jack’s hunters come and steal flaming sticks from Ralph’s tribe. It is the one of the first major open shows of aggression by Jack against Ralph, which will soon turn a lot more savage and violent as the book progresses. From what happens in this chapter it is obvious to the reader that Ralph’s leadership is beginning to crumble fast as more of the boys abandon Ralph to follow Jack. This symbolises the fall of civility under the uprising of human savagery.
However before the incident of Jack’s hunters raiding the beach, we learn of another event that shows the reader how quickly Jack and his followers are turning from well brought up English school boys, to primeval human savages. We follow Jack and his newly formed tribe as they hunt down and brutally kill a sow. Golding describes the hunt in an extremely graphical way which effectively conveys the lust for violence felt by the boys, ‘the sow collapsed under them and they were heavy and fulfilled upon her’. This proves Golding’s point that there is a deep primeval savagery within all humans and that it is very much the environment that people are in that shapes their morals. This event is highly significant because it is the most violently described event in the book so far, signifying the coming bloodshed. What is even more significant is the fact that Jack and his hunters leave behind the decapitated sows head as an offering for the beast, showing that they now carry out savage tribal rituals and regard the Beast as a dark religious figure which they worship and fear at the same time. Jack ingeniously uses the fear inspired by the Beast to rule his savage kingdom.
However what is arguably the most important scene in this chapter and the whole book is Simon’s confrontation with ‘the Lord of the Flies’. When hunters departed they left the sow’s head on a stake as an offering to the beast. As Simon stares at it the sight mesmerises him and appears to be talking to him. It declares that it is the beast and that Simon will never be able to get away from him for he lies within all human beings. It is through Simon’s deep human insight that he is able to realise that the beast is not a physical thing but the savagery and darkness embedded into all human beings. Simon fears that this human instinct lies within himself as well, and as he listens to the ‘Lord of the Flies’ it threatens him with what he fears most. As he can no longer stand the sight, Simon faints.