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William Golding’s Lord of the Flies reflects human society, evidenced after the naval officer arrives on the island only to be appalled by the boys’ behavior, which is reflective of the savagery of war. The book tells the story of a group of young boys stranded on a tropical island after a failed evacuation during the Second World War (Zhu, 2020). The boys form a society and elect Ralph, a responsible young boy, to oversee their society. However, the newly formed community quickly falls apart. It descends into cruelty, chaos, and savagery due to the influence of Jack, one of the prominent characters and the antagonist in the narrative. This discussion will offer a character analysis of Jack and his role in society’s downfall. He is a rule-breaker, savage, and tyrant from his actions. His violent behavior and evil ambitions are critical in facilitating society’s collapse.
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Jack the Rule-Breaker
Jack comes across as a pathological hypocrite and an anarchist for the rest of the story. In the beginning, Jack is instrumental in creating the rules that define the boys’ society (BBC, n.d.). He is appointed as an influential member of the group tasked with hunting the wild pigs that inhabit the island. However, it becomes evident that Jack is a selfish individual who craves power and is willing to break the rules to achieve his goal when he ignores the rules. His hypocrisy is evident when he supports using the conch to moderate community interactions. Jack is keen to limit others’ communication and assert himself in the group. In fact, he even insists that the conch does not hold authority in certain parts of the island, where he deems himself to be in charge. However, despite this denial of the rules, Jack uses the conch to summon other members of the society to impeach and usurp Ralph’s power as the group’s leader. He seems only to follow the rules when they suit him and break them when it is to his advantage. For instance, Jack insists on addressing the group without the conch. When questioned, Jack responds, “who cares” (Golding & Awad, 2013, p.129), mocking and abandoning the rules he helped create. He even questioned Ralph’s elected position, claiming he was stronger because he hunted and sang. Jack’s character is opposed to regulations, appears selfish, and behaves hypocritically toward the established society and its rules.
Jack, the Savage
Once jack abandons society’s rules, he quickly descends into savagery. He feels he has outgrown society and needs to exercise his strength, charisma, and power by establishing a rival tribe (BBC, n.d.). His behavior also changes from adherence to the rules to anarchy and aggression. For instance, he becomes a hunter and leads the group to catch and kill the monster and wild pigs in the forest. He goes down on all fours and starts growling like an animal as he tries to track the prey. His behavior involves developing rituals to appease the monster, which seem barbaric and uninformed for an educated child. He slaughters a pig and places its head on a pike below the monster, which is really a dead soldier with a parachute stuck in the trees. His savagery portrays him as a cruel bully who is comfortable picking on the weaker members of the group (Zhu, 2020). For example, after he is questioned about taking children away from the signal fire, he feels maligned and responds by violently attacking Piggy, a younger, weaker boy. His actions portray him as a bully, later evident in his effort to kill Simon after being frightened by the boy’s sudden emergence from the forest. His savagery is exacerbated when he establishes a tribe, paints himself in pig’s blood, and wears a mask. He even growls and imitates a feral animal to symbolize humanity’s loss. His actions lead to an attempt to kill Ralph and burn the entire forest suggesting the loss of rationality. These events depict a child who has lost their humanity and embraced savagery and barbarism.
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A Violent Tyrant
Jack appears to hold certain despotic qualities such as charisma and cruelty to assert dominance. Jack is power hungry and jealous of Ralph, who has the respect and favor of the other boys, which motivates Jack to usurp this power (George & Raju, 2015). He achieves this by ignoring rules and aggression and establishing a rival tribe where he can exercise his newly-found authority. Jack demonstrates ruthlessness by torturing boys from Ralph’s camp and even trying to kill Ralph to eliminate him as a rival. He even uses his influence to push Roger into killing Piggy. Jack is a violent dictator, pursuing selfish goals and ambitions for power (BBC, n.d.). His actions even lead to burning down the entire forest in a bid to capture and kill ralph. This final action is irrational because the forest sustained both tribes, and burning it would leave them hungry. However, Jack cares more about achieving dominance and power than his subjects’ sustenance.
Golding’s portrayal of Jack in the Lord of the Flies is one of an authoritarian leader who manipulates the rules to suit his needs and uses savagery and violence to assert dominance. Jack is a jealous, power-hungry child whose primary ambition is to be in charge. This desire for power marks society’s downfall as he encourages others to break the rules, separate to form a rival tribe and engage in violence and murder. Overall, Jack reflects human society, where demand for power and dominance often leads to societal collapse.
- BBC. (n.d.). Jack in Lord of the Flies. BBC Bitesize. Retrieved 16 August 2022, from https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zgfcxsg/revision/3#:~:text=Right%20from%20the%20start%2C%20Jack,laughter%20became%20a%20bloodthirsty%20snarling.
- George, J., & Raju, R. L. N. (2015). Personal accountability to evil in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, 6(6 S2), 174-174.
- Golding, W., & Awad, R. (2013). Lord of the Flies: Text, criticism, glossary, and notes. The Anglo-Egyptian Bookshop: Bottom of FormCairoTop of Form.
- Zhu, L. (2020, September). A Reflection on the Relationship Between Individuals and Institution in the Novel of “Lord of the Flies.” In 4th International Conference on Art Studies: Science, Experience, Education (ICASSEE 2020) (pp. 285-290). Atlantis Press.