Un barbare en Asie


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Henri Michaux

Huts on the Beach

A few days have passed. Ralph and Simon are attempting to build huts, with little success. Jack returns after his latest effort to hunt pigs. Ralph’s crew is basically useless, as is Jack’s. Neither boy can seem to keep his group on task. The two huts that stand are poorly erected, and no pigs have yet been killed. The situation is pitiful. Ralph and Jack are skeptical of one another’s ability to lead successfully.

Ralph speaks of his lack of help with the hut building project. The other boys prefer to swim, play, or hunt. There is some recognition that “fun” is taking precedence over “work.” Jack also expresses his frustration, but it is of a different sort. Rather than hunting in the jungle, he often feels as though he is being hunted. He recalls images of the beastie first mentioned by the young boy in the preceding chapter.

Simon leaves the two boys to make his way into the forest, where he has found for himself a sort of retreat away from the outside “structure” devised by Ralph and Jack. On his way there, Simon helps small boys pick fruit ripe for eating. Upon leaving the boys with their armfuls of fruit, Simon makes sure he is not followed before retreating into his shelter in the woods.

This chapter illustrates the difficulties that the two leaders of the boys are experiencing. The dreamlike pretensions of both Ralph and Jack are eroded by the fact that the other boys would rather lounge, loaf, and play than help with the actual chores. Their power base is revealed to be insubstantial. The one boy who does help, Simon, retreats into a forest world that he has found and which acts as a retreat—a hideaway from all the others. The final image presented by the chapter is one in which the wildness of the island exudes a powerful, intoxicating aroma that threatens to take over the senses of the boys.

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