Importance Of Jack In Lord Of The Flies Essay

Just figured I'll use this as an excuse to share an essay I did for homework a while back in the hope someone will find it useful. I don't really like the book, and I reckon I get a bit nonsensical in places, but whatever. It got pretty much full marks, so I must have done something right. You'll note I use the term 'anarchy' at the end. Whilst I'll bet my English teacher thought I was using it to meant "chaos" (despite the redundancy), I actually did mean it as in an ideal non-hierarchal society. It's an Eng Lit essay, and Golding hardly strikes me as having anarchist sympathies. And it's an Eng Lit essay ('Death of the author" means I can read Ayn bloody Rand as a socialist if I look hard enough - mild BS like that is barely an issue).

Anyway, how is Jack presented in Lord of the Flies?

Jack is probably the main antagonist (besides human nature) in William Golding’s 1957 novel Lord of the Flies, whose plot centers around a group of boys stranded on an island, and their descent into savagery. 

Right from his presentation he is presented as something of an antithesis to the book’s main protagonist, Ralph. He insists on being known by his last name in (going off his “kids’ names” remark) what is clearly meant to present him as having a superiority complex, although he soon relents. He is also presented as being markedly different in physique to Ralph, their faces in particular: Ralph had “a mildness about his mouth and eyes that proclaimed no devil”, yet Jack’s face “was ugly, without silliness” (immediately presenting him in a negative light), and his “light blue eyes” were “turning, or ready to turn, to anger”. At this stage, it is also worth noting that the choir is “wearily obedient” and he seems to wield total control over them. He, as “the most obvious leader”, also attempts to seize control undemocratically (“I ought to be leader”), presenting him as a possible dictator at even this early stage. He also shows a strong dislike of Piggy (who is intended to be a symbol of civilization, and is essentially golding’s mouthpiece character). Despite this, the violence (not to be confused with his cruelty towards the weak shown in his actions towards Piggy) that marks him out particularly is only exhibited after his earlier inability to face “the unbearable blood” and the enormity of killing, and when exploring with Ralph and Simon he seems to act like a protagonist in books like The Coral Island (from which he takes his name, the book is also referred to by name on a few occasions - Lord of the Flies was in part a response to it) - “This is proper exploring”.

By chapter 3, Jack is already shown to be succumbing to the allure of savagery, with a “compulsion to track down and kill” “swallowing him up”, and him being reduced to “running, dog-like, on all fours” by this. Golding presents this as “madness”, outright stating it to be such in the narrative (which appears to be not from any character’s perspective). This aspect is furthered by him becoming “the mask” in Chapter 4, which ‘liberates’ him “from shame and self consciousness”, fully confirming his conversion towards a focus on the “brilliant world of hunting exhilaration and tactics” as opposed to “the world of longing and baffled commonsense”. This presentation is furthered by him letting “the bloody fire out” through his desire, showing how his savagery is getting the better of civilization due to the lack of a true authority beyond the symbol of the conch. His violent, dictatorial, side is shown once more in his use of the chant (“Kill the pig! Cut her throat! Spill her blood!”) and him whacking Piggy, breaking one lense in his glasses. A degree of cruelty, but cunning, is shown in his ‘apology’ (a “verbal trick”), and the very fact it’s directed at Ralph shows that he’s already starting to see his leadership as invalid.

This strain is later shown in him disparaging the conch in chapter 6, instead suggesting that the bigguns form a sort of cabal to decide things “We don’t need the conch any more... it’s time some people knew they’ve got to keep quiet and leave deciding things to the rest of us”, and earlier showing that he doesn’t care about the littluns at all (“Sucks to the littluns”), also showing a lack of compassion. Yet, at the same time, his own childishness shows up but a few pages later, his immediate response to Castle Rock being “What a place for a fort”, although the nature of this observation is also an early sign of the warmongering tendencies which would become so major later on.

Jack’s desire to gain control, and hypocritical tendencies in his attempts to do this, come to a head in Chapter 8 in which he tries to take control of the group (“Hands up... whoever wants Ralph not to be chief”) after disparaging Ralph for being “ a coward” in the face of the Beast (which, at this moment, he is presented as believing in, and responded to in the same way), only to fail humiliatingly, his childishness showing once again in his declaration that he isn’t “going to play any longer” and him outright crying in humiliation. This leads to the split and the clear presentation of the difference between his and Ralph’s leadership styles, the savagery of his becoming evident in the spearing of the sow, and desecration of Simon’s eden in order to put the eponymous Lord of the Flies (the pig’s head) in place. 

By chapter 9, he has become “decorated and garlanded like an idol”, similar to the cult of personality that many dictators around the time Golding wrote the book had had (and still do have). He also seems to be the catalyst for the descent of all those present at the feast into savagery through forcing them to do the “dance”, leading directly to Simon’s death (although he later maintains (probably knowingly falsely (albeit possibly hidden to himself through some form of doublethink)) that the Simon they killed was in fact a guise of the beast). 

Come Chapter 10, he is the Chief, and is hinted to be something of a fascist bully, having one kid beat up for nothing. His desire for control extends to stealing the fire (rather than asking, in part to show that “we’re strong, we hunt”), and ultimately forcing everyone but Ralph and Piggy (who he doesn’t like (since he’s the bad guy and they’re Golding’s mouthpieces mostly, although Piggy’s outsiderness is something else as well) and the littluns (who he simply doesn’t count) to join his tribe, using implied torture. His “full intent” to kill Ralph is presented, he is a “terror” (“but Roger” is implied to be worse), and his tribe are presented as nothing but “painted savages”, in contrast to the nice britishness of Ralph and Piggy (“Is it better...”).

In conclusion, Jack is presented wholly as Ralph's antithesis and is a representative of savagery, dictatorship and anarchy (these are all contradictory ideas, but he still somehow manages to be all 3). However, this said, perhaps the last time he is referred to is meant to be what he really is being presented as, nothing more than “a little boy” (mainly because it appears Golding thinks little boys are, in fact, naturally “terrors” and would regress to being such if left alone for too long). 

Choose a novel in which an important theme is explored. Explain how the author develops this theme throughout the novel.

            The Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a novel in which the theme of savagery versus civilisation is explored. Some British boys are stranded on an isolated island at the time of an imaginary nuclear war. On the island we see conflict between two main characters, Jack and Ralph, who respectively represent civilisation and savagery. This has an effect on the rest of the boys throughout the novel as they delve further and further into savagery.

             The theme of savagery versus civilisation is first introduced to us through the symbol of the conch shell which we associate with Ralph as he is the person who first uses it and becomes the elected leader of the boys. This symbolises authority amongst the boys. At the first assembly Ralph says “I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak…he won’t be interrupted”. This suggests civilisation as Ralph is allowing each boy to have an equal say and opinion. If they have the conch, no matter who they are or what age they are they will be given the chance to speak and will be listened to by the rest of the boys. The boys have created the island to be a democratic place which shows a civilised side to them as they try to mimic the homes they have just left.

             Contrasting with the symbol of the conch is the symbol of the beast which comes to be associated with Jack as by the end of the novel he is almost devil worshipping it. The beast begins as a  “snake thing” but by the end of the novel it has become “the Lord of the Flies”. The first quote shows us that the beast is clearly evil. Western society considers snakes to be bad omens because it was a snake that led Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge. However at this stage of the novel the beast is quite insubstantial as it is only a “thing”. As the boys fear of the beast grows so to does the beast itself until it has manifested into the devil – the ultimate and most powerful evil. He has a strong status as a Lord although it is over something pretty disgusting – the flies. The boys belief in the beast leads them to behave more like savages as they act out from their fear and they begin to loose hold of the rules, led by Jack, thus demonstrating the theme of savagery.

             One of ways Golding shows conflict between savagery and civilisation is when Jack and some of the other boys are killing the first pig. Jack chants “kill the pig, cut her throat, spill the blood”. This suggests savagery as the boys are being violent and aggressive when killing the pig and they don’t care about it. This is particularly clear through Golding’s word choice. Jack talks about cutting the pig’s throat which makes it sound like a savage action and spilling her blood which reinforces the lack of care and feeling shown towards the pug’s carcass. This shows that the boys are no longer feeling guilty about what they have done thus showing them becoming savages. 

             We can see the conflict between savagery and civilisation developing further when Piggy’s glasses are broken. We are told “Piggy cried out in terror ‘my specs!” This shows us that the boys savage natures are beginning to overule their more civilised sides. At the start of the book Jack would never have dared touch Piggy, but here he actually snaps and goes for Piggy who he despises. We can tell that Piggy is really scared as Golding chooses the words “cried” and “terror” to describe the scene. Piggy sounds like he is hurting and is genuinely terrified about what Jack might do to him and the loss of his sight. Piggy’s glasses have also come to represent intelligence on the island, with them breaking we see that the pathway to savagery is now completely open for the boys. This is the first true piece of violence between the two factions on the island and it will result in nearly all the boys becoming savages.

             A final way in which we see the theme of savagery versus civilisation being demonstrated is when Ralph sticks up for Piggy after he is attacked by Jack. Ralph says “that was a dirty trick”. This shows that Ralph is really angry at Jack for what he said and did to Piggy. He is still attempting to impose himself as leader here as he says this in an aggressive and assertive tone. This suggests there is still some glimmers of civilisation on the island at this point as there is still someone with a sense of moral goodness ready to fight for justice.

             In conclusion The Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a novel in which the theme of savagery versus civilisation is shown. Ralph represents civilisation as he wants to enforce rules and let everyone have an equal say. Whereas Jack who represents savagery as he rules over the boys and he is not interested in what they have to say. Through the boys actions Golding shows us that we need rules and to consciously impose them to make sure society functions properly.

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