A Contrast Between Jack and Ralph in Lord of the Flies, a Novel by William Golding

Responsibility is something many people have differing views on, a parent responsible for a child will have a viewpoint that’s very different from someone that lives on there own with no accountability and responsibility to anyone but themselves. The novel Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, takes this basic idea and shows what even two characters that are so similar can be so different in this regard. The two character foils of Ralph and Jack extrapolate the differences that two British boys the same age can have in the ways they take responsibility and accountability for themselves and the other boys around them.

Ralph sees the group as something that he has to make sure has the best future, every single person has to be helped and no one should be left behind. Their livelihood and actions are things that directly impact him since he is a leader that cares deeply about each and every boy he is responsible for.

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Jack is a leader that creates his own group and does it for power, the responsibility and accountability for what him and his tribe are doing are things that he doesn’t think about. He doesn’t take responsibility for those around him and for those following him; them listening to him is an extension of control that he wants to feel over others. They are near opposites in the ways that they take responsibility for themselves and those around them, William Golding uses Ralph and Jack as a way to show the different ways that a character will take accountability and responsibility for those that are around them and themselves.

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For some people being responsible for another person is something that they take a great pride and put effort since it’s such an important thing, Ralph is an embodiment of this. He is forced into the role of being a leader, he takes it and immediately it becomes apparent that Ralph is wanting the best for each person he has to take care of. One of the biggest things that shows how he wants only the best and feels accountable for everyone is the fire and how he views it. Ralph sees it as such an important piece of how he will be the best leader for everyone and it shows in this quote, “The fire is the most important thing on the island. How can we ever be rescued except by luck, if we don’t keep a fire going?” Rescue is such an important goal for Ralph because of his long term thinking. The long term thinking that Ralph possesses shows that he knows the best possible thing for the boys on the island is to be rescued, he takes full accountability for the welfare of the boys and to get the best thing possible for everyone he sets the fire as priority number one because of it being what will eventually lead to their rescue. It is in his eyes his duty to make sure the group has the best future possible. Emotions are something that dictate Ralph’s choices and what he will do about them, his attachment to the boys means he tries to make sure everyone is doing the best possible even when it’s hurting others. Piggy is a prime example of how Ralph gets attached to the people he is responsible for and makes decisions based on these feelings, even when he knows it’s illogical and a bad move to make. A specific moment this becomes apparent is when Piggy’s glasses are taken from them, he says “we’ll go with you.” Ralph knows that there is no chance of them getting Piggy’s glasses back by asking but because he is such an empathetic leader the idea of them

doing wrong to Piggy is them wronging himself, the decisions he makes are based off of how he feels about the situation. His quality of being unselfish dicates the actions he makes about the way he uses his position of power to be responsible for the others and their actions. This quality of being a leader that cares more for others than himself is shown when in a multitude of scenes throughout the book with the most prominent example being his having to go hunt and find the beast. The person to volunteer to place himself in danger is Ralph and he doesn’t allow others to put themselves at more of a risk than himself. He uses his position of power as chief of the tribe to make it so that those boys he is responsible for aren’t put into any unnecessary danger. All around Ralph is an embodiment of an altruistic leader, he shows how people that are forced into positions of power often take accountability for themselves and see those that they are responsible for as a direct reflection of themselves. As leaders it is usually their goals to make sure their people live the best life possible that they can provide.

Responsibility is taken differently by some people than others, some see themselves as having to make sure that if they aren’t accountable for what others do they should atleast be accountable for themselves. Jack fits into the other category where responsibility and accountability for the actions he takes and for the people he is in charge of are things he doesn’t think about. In his thought process many of the things that he does are with complete disregard for the consequences of what he is doing, his savagery is in a sense him deserting the responsibility he holds over his own actions. A responsibility he held for the good of the group was for him and his choir boys to keep the fire lit at all times, he ends up letting the fire die and his retort when being confronted about it is “We can light the fire again”. This disregard for his duty shows how for someone like Jack when they are put in a position of responsibility they can not always be held accountable of doing what has to be done. A similar situation in the way he takes responsibility is how he takes power of his own group of people but doesn’t care about what the consequences and demands are for leading such a large group.

The tribe he leads are a way for him to gain more power and in his mind not something that he has to nurture and protect because of his abandonment of the basic idea that as an authoritative figure you must keep their people safe as can be. He uses his tribe as a way for him to extend the power he has and gain the power he wants, it is a tool for him rather than a responsibility he has to take care of. Since Ralph is what Jack sees as his opposition he uses his tribe as the tool he sees in his head to try and eliminate him with no care for the health and safety of those that are listening to him and obeying him. Jack shows this disregard for safety early on when he say “Hunters” to be the purpose of his choir boys; his choir and him are the group that early on show Jack’s beliefs in how his responsibility should be used to satisfy his own wants and needs, them being hunters is his want for meat. Consequences are something that are integral to how a person makes decisions and act upon them, Jack doesn’t look and think about these consequences. He takes charge of a group of young boys from Ralph and doesn’t think about

what that will mean he has to do, this thinking is what leads to him making rash decisions all throughout the book since it is such an important thing to how a person acts and behaves. In the already used examples of hunting Ralph and not thinking about the safety of the tribe or even second guessing the idea of murdering another individual when there isn’t a reason to his disregard for what will happen when he acts shows his lack of understanding the accountability he has for his actions. In the book after he starts his separate tribe he immediately starts on the hunt for a pig to hunt and kill, the first one that he and his tribe find is a sow nursing her piglets. Instead of thinking about whether it is right or wrong to kill a pig that will end up in the death of her young Jack motions for his hunters to strike and they do. The thought of finding another pig that one so there can be more pigs to hunt in the future isn’t one he has because of him wanting to kill the pig now and not think about the consequence of killing the island’s breeding population.

In a similar way there is the conflict where he decides to attack and takes Piggy’s glasses and not think about how they would respond to his actions, the level of liability he feels he has for what he does is zero. Jack can be compared to a narcissistic leader where control is what he wishes for the most and the biggest needs to fulfill are his own. Different people have these different ways that they think about the idea of responsibility; Jack is one of the people that see responsibility being to feed and fulfill the needs of themselves over others. His descent into savagery is in reality just his descent into not caring about responsibility, consequences, and liabilities for the actions that he and those that he is responsible for take.

The two character foils that are Ralph and Jack show how the ways in which responsibility is taken can be very different even when two characters are so similar. They differ so much in how they take responsibility for their own actions and how they take responsibility for those that they are in charge of. The specific ways that they each set their goals for their group and themselves shows how they see responsibility in a different light from the other. Ralph’s long term thinking is reminiscent of how he sees his responsibility as a leader to make sure what he does and what everyone in the group does is the best for everyone. The conch being given to him means that it his duty now to be the one that will help everyone. Jack wants his tribe to have a good future as well even though he has a disregard for the safety, the hunt for meat is to satisfy the tribe and him.

The chant that they have gives him and his tribe the feeling of power and security, even though they seem similar in how they care about the group in a way they still have a big difference. Jack’s short term thinking and living in the moment is a very large factor that changes how he uses his position of power because of his actions being based on what the group wants now and not thinking about the consequences of such a short term focused leader is. The idea of his tribe is centered around security and food with no care for whether it is a good idea to get off the island or not, he doesn’t think about the future of living on an island for the rest of his life. Ralphs long term thinking shows he knows that as the authority figure it is up to him to make sure the boys have the best future and not just present, he knew this since the Ralph and Jack show how people everywhere can have such distinct views on such a foundational idea that responsibility is.

The book Lord of the Flies deals with many themes throughout it that question the fundamental ideas that society is built off of. The fundamental idea of responsibility is broken apart using the characters of Ralph and Jack, they both show how responsibility can be taken in a variety of ways whether it’s for themselves or for others. Ralph’s long term thinking, unselfish attitude and attachment to those in his group shows how he sees the responsibility he has been given as a duty where everyone must be treated as best as can be. Jack’s non-consequential thinking and attitude of his only responsibility being to himself is an indication of how a person can only feel like they should benefit themselves. These disparities and gaps between the ways that Ralph and Jack take the idea of responsibility shows how people can have such a difference stance on a fundamental idea even when they are so similar in almost all aspects of life.

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A Contrast Between Jack and Ralph in Lord of the Flies, a Novel by William Golding. (2022, Feb 04). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/a-contrast-between-jack-and-ralph-in-lord-of-the-flies-a-novel-by-william-golding-essay

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