Percival in Lord of the Flies: Character Analysis & Quotes

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  • 0:00 The Littlest of the Littluns
  • 1:01 Percival's Intense Crying
  • 2:56 Faded Clean Away
  • 4:28 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kimberly Myers

Kimberly has taught college writing and rhetoric and has a master's degree in Comparative Literature.

This lesson is a character analysis of Percival in William Golding's 'Lord of the Flies.' The analysis includes quotes from and about Percival and explores the symbolic function that Percival serves as a representative of childlike innocence.

The Littlest of the Littluns

Being stranded on an island with no adults for comfort could be very scary to a small child! Such is the case with Percival in William Golding's famous novel Lord of the Flies. Percival first becomes known as the 'littlun' who cries all the time. He is one of the smallest boys on the island, and Golding uses him throughout the novel to show the island's effect on innocence and how fragile the connections to the outside world are.

Golding describes Percival, saying, 'Percival was mouse-colored and had not been very attractive even to his mother.' With an introduction like that, we as readers can't help but feel sorry for this little boy. He is innocent, young, and harmless. He just wants to go home.

Using the name Percival probably isn't an accident on Golding's part, either. 'Percival' is the name of one of King Arthur's knights. In the Arthurian stories, Percival is innocent and naïve, so Golding is likely referencing that association in his choice of name.

Percival's Intense Crying

When the 'biguns' address Percival, they call him forward and ask his name. 'The littluns pushed Percival forward, then left him by himself. He stood knee-deep in the central grass, looking at his hidden feet, trying to pretend he was in a tent.' The little boy feels exposed and just wants to be sheltered and protected from the situation that he's in.

Ralph says, 'Now tell us. What's your name?'

'Percival Wemys Madison. The Vicarage, Harcourt St. Anthony, Hants, telephone, telephone, tele - '

Percival begins reciting his full name and address before he falters at his telephone number. After the trauma of the plane crash and being in the alien environment of the island, the only thing Percival has to anchor him to home is his name and address. With this he cries again, 'As if this information was rooted far down in the springs of sorrow, the littlun wept. His face puckered, the tears leapt from his eyes, his mouth opened till they could see a square black hole. At first he was a silent effigy of sorrow; but then the lamentation rose out of him, loud and sustained as the conch.'

However, the boys yell at him, 'Shut up, you! Shut up!' but Percival is 'far beyond the reach of authority or even physical intimidation,' and he keeps on crying. His despair causes littluns ones to cry, as though they were 'reminded of their personal sorrows; and perhaps felt themselves to share in a sorrow that was universal.'

Percival represents innocence, and his wailing represents the communal sadness and disorientation of all of the littluns. The bigger boys try to silence the littluns' grief, but when it comes down to it, they're just sad, scared little boys.

After this outpouring of emotion, Percival, 'surrounded by the comfortable presence of humans, fell in the long grass and went to sleep.' He's cried it out, and now he just needs to take a nap.

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