Lord of the Flies “The theme (of Lord of the Flies) is an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature. The moral is that the shape of society must depend on the ethical mature of the individual and not on any political system however apparently logical or respectable.” William Golding In the novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Jack Merridew, chief of the hunters, represents the hidden human passion and animal cruelty.
The name Jack comes from Hebrew and means “one who supplants,” one who takes over by force. This is how Jack gains and uses power. While Ralph (his rival for the island), with Piggy and a few other children, in contrast, represents ‘civilization’ and common sense. The name Ralph, is originally from the Anglo-Saxon language, meaning “counsel.” That is how Ralph works, he is an embodiment of democracy; he is willing to be a leader but knows that it’s important for each of the boys to be able to speak their mind.
At the beginning of the book the position of Jack and Ralph is more or less equal. They are both well – conditioned boys of school age, who find themselves on a lonely island with some other boys of various age, but not older than themselves. They share similar opinions about their situation and its solution. They both want to be rescued and taken home.
They both realize that there are a lot of things they must do to survive on the island until all of them get rescued. And lastly, they both are dominant types, but yet at the beginning of the novel they both acknowledge each other’s authority and behave to each other in a friendly way. At the return Ralph found himself alone on a limb with Jack and they grinned at each other, sharing this burden. Once more, admit the breeze, the shouting, the slanting sunlight on the high mountain, was shed that glamour, that strange invisible light of friendship, adventure, and content. -“Almost too heavy.” Jack grinned back. – “Not for the two of us.” Together, joined in effort by the burden, they staggered up the last step of the mountain. Together, they chanted One! (39) In the beginning of the book Jack was afraid of the blood, afraid of his knife, afraid of the hunt. He was scared of killing pigs, scared of what he would become if he chose the path of death and destruction. “You cut a pig’s throat to let the blood out,” said Jack, “otherwise you can’t eat the meat.” “Why didn’t you-?” They knew very well why he didn’t: because of the enormity of the knife descending and cutting into living flesh; because of the unbearable blood. (39) The first, although hidden conflict between Ralph and Jack, the conflict between the two sides, arose when Ralph was elected as the chief, “the one who decides things”. The reader is given the impression from the author that Jack’s vanity has been lost, since Jack is used to being in charge, formerly being the chapter chorister and head boy. Ralph counted. -“I’m the chief then.” The circle of boys broke into applause. Even the choir applauded; and the freckles on Jack’s face disappeared under a mortification. (23) Things changed soon after Ralph became chief. Ralph foolishly appointed Jack as chief of the hunters (the remnants of the former choir), thus creating a rival for his power. Jack, painted his face and donned a ‘mask of a hunter’. When you wear a mask you pretend you are a different person, and so Jack did, he pretended he was a savage. Through the mask he accomplished killing the pig, though by painting his face, I think he sacrificed all moral ethics and values. He became a pagan, a hunter, what we would become without moral and rules of conduct, and strangely enough he became a victim… At first Jack and his hunters do what they are asked to, but as time went on, they started to participate in different activities and neglect those needed for the sake of the boys’ salvation and emancipation from the island. One of these incidents was shortly before the celebration of the first time Jack slew the pig. The first time Jack tasted the blood, experienced the thrill of the chase and the potential rewards of the hunt. While he had accomplished killing the pig, and bringing meat for the group; he had neglected the fire and let a ship pass them by, any possible rescuers. Ralph spoke. -“You let the fire out.” Jack checked, vaguely irritated by this irrelevance but too happy to let it worry him. -“We can light the fire again. You should have been with us, Ralph. We had a smashing time. The twins got knocked over…” -“We hit the pig…” – “…I fell on the top…” -“I cut his throat,” said Jack, proudly… (70) In Golding’s novel the fire, as many other things, has a symbolic function. For Ralph and his followers, the only way how to get rescued was to keep the fire burning. Therefore, Ralph tried to enforce the superiority of the fire onto others. When the fire, the symbol of sense, went out, it was because Jack and his hunters got carried away by their hunting passion, which more and more dulls their “natural” human sense. They let the fire out, right when a ship passes by; this moment emphasizes the significance of the fire and the abysmal difference between human common sense and minds influenced and dulled by eagerness; in this case it is their eagerness for hunting. The knife, on the other hand, has a totally different symbolic meaning. For Jack and his entourage it represents the hunt, which eventually leads to death, which it also symbolizes. Jack tries to influence the knife and the hunt onto others by brute force, by painting their faces and creating a mask of deception. This was effective, because they believed that when they wore a mask they were different people, so they could kill whoever and do whatever. It is the thrill of the hunt, that the knife represents, that is responsible for Jack becoming a dictator and a tyrant. When you remove the knife, the mask, and the hunt, from Jack, you get Ralph. Perhaps if the hunt had not consumed Jack, things would have been different on the island. Things took a dive for the worst with the emergence of the beast. The beast represents the fear of man, the fears and prejudices that occur when one doesn’t understand or fears something or someone. But the boys, except for Simon, believed that the beast was manifested in a physical form that they could kill, and they wanted to do so. Jack played against their fears, and their prejudices against the beast like a puppet master and gained great status in their eyes when he offered to hunt the beast down. He mutinied against Ralph by saying he was a coward like Piggy. He divided the group into two permanently, separating his hunters, from Ralph’s clan. “I’m not going to play any longer. Not with you.” Most of the boys were looking down now, at the grass or their feet. Jack cleared his throat again. “I’m not going to be part of Ralph’s lot-” He looked down along the right – hand logs, numbering the hunters that had been a choir. “I’m going off by myself. He can catch his own pigs. Anyone who wants to hunt when I do can come too.” (127) The majority of Ralph’s few remaining allies left him to join Jack’s party. What could Ralph offer them anyway? To guard the fire, how were they, children all aged under twelve years old, to understand the importance of the fire? Jack could offer them the thrill of the hunt, meat every night, and perhaps most importantly freedom from such responsibility. What I find interesting about the following paragraph, is how God – like Jack appears. It is obvious he is in control here, sitting on a throne – like log. Painted and garlanded, like a pagan God being worshipped by his sycophants. Offering others to pay homage to him and partake in the ambrosia, their ‘God’ will provide for them. Before the party had started a great log had been dragged into the center of the lawn, and Jack painted and garlanded, sat there like an idol. There were piles of meat on green leaves near him, and fruit, and coconut cells full of drink. (149) Jack was quick to kill all those who would never ally themselves with him, and force the rest to join him. Ralph tries to conceal himself so that Jack and the hunters cannot find him. Now that the whole island is mastered by the hunters’ cruelty. Fortunately for Ralph, the rescue-party arrives “on time” and all the boys who remains on the island get rescued. Ironically, it is the fire started by the hunters to kill Ralph which attracts their rescuers. Had it not been the fire that spread on the island, the boys would probably have never been rescued. Here the importance of fire as a symbol of sense is consummated. The fire reached the coconut palms by the beach and swallowed them noisily. A flame, seemingly detached, swung like an acrobat and licked up the palm heads on the platform. The sky was black. The officer grinned cheerfully at Ralph. -“We saw your smoke. What have you been doing? Having a war or something?” Ralph nodded. (201) The novel Lord of the Flies is as much a political story as it is anything else, it tells the tale of the war between democracy and dictatorship, and the abuse of power, it tells the tale of World War II. Though it tells this in such a fast – moving and exciting writing style, that it is hard for the reader to notice this until after much rereading and rumination. The island setting works as a metaphor for the world at the time, the reader must keep in mind Golding wrote the Lord of the Flies in 1954, shortly after World War II. The boys were trapped on the island, as people were trapped in Germany, France and other countries politically and economically involved in World War II. What happens there becomes a commentary for the world at the time. Jack, represents a Hitler – like dictator, he believes in controlling the island through brute force, and governs the island through his militia of hunters; through authoritarian power. As with Hitler, and almost every dictator, Jack grew from the common fears of the masses, in this case the fear of the beast, and the inability of Ralph to quench this fear. Ralph, and his clan, portray the allied forces; they believe in governing the island through democracy. As in the case of the allied forces, they won, but they had to sacrifice the lives of Piggy and Simon to accomplish it. In my opinion, I think that Jack was perhaps the most important character in the book, he represented the ‘dark side’, adding a mildly acrimonious taste that blended perfectly with the plot. Had he not been in the book, their would not be a sense of daunting of fear. He was the Brutus in Julius Caesar. He was a necessary evil. Ironically, the same could be applied for Adolf Hitler, if it had not been for his twisted racial prejudices, could we truly have learnt so much about anti – semitism and racism?
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