Jack in LOTF essay

Jaide Bateman
H. Eng. 11 5-1
May 6/09

Judging Jack

“[Jack] was sitting there, naked to the waist, his face blocked out in white and red. The tribe lay in a semicircle before him. The newly beaten and untied Wilfred was sniffing noisily in the background” (176).

Jack, one of the main characters of Lord of the Flies written by William Golding, is a character with few inhibitions who expresses little grief over his arrogance. He displays leadership qualities and is surely capable of being in control. However, Jack’s eagerness for power makes him an easy target for greed. This gluttony fuels his rigid dictatorship and takes its toll on his patience against Ralph’s organized assembly. He takes lengthy measures to obtain his jurisdiction. Despite being a child, human nature takes effect and pushes away all childish conduct to make room for his primitive society.
When Ralph and Piggy are identifying all the boys after they land on the desolate island, Jack insists on standing out. He feels that he is above even his own name because it is common and juvenile. “‘Kids’ names,’ said Merridew. ‘Why should I be Jack? I’m Merridew’” (17). His conceit emerges when he declares his entitlement of chief. “‘I ought to be chief,’ said Jack with simple arrogance, ‘because I’m chapter chorist and head boy. I can sing C sharp’” (18). Jack justifies his right to be chief by declaring his choral successes as though they will assist in the challenges of the boys’ situation, although the truth is quite the contrary.
When it came time to kill the first pig, Jack’s conscience cut in making him unable to put the knife through the pig,
They knew very well why he hadn’t [killed the pig]; because of the enormity of the knife descending and cutting into living flesh; because of the unbearable blood . . . Next time there would be no mercy. He looked round fiercely, daring them to contradict (29).

Jack’s humility is his fuel; he refuses to be embarrassed again due to not performing up to the standards of his fellows and is therefore constant in his pursuit of meat. An obsession forms. He devotes nearly every extra moment for the hunt and carelessly allows the fire to go out, prevent-ing a signal for when the plane flies by. His repentance is lacking despite the vitality of a fire, “‘Rescue? Yes, of course! All the same, I’d like to catch a pig first—’” (54).
When the time finally comes for Jack to redeem his kill, he adorns himself in war paint and prepares for his retribution. When he paints his face, he transforms to a vicious creature with no mercy, just as he wants. “He spilt the water and leapt to his feet, laughing excitedly. Beside the mere, his sinewy body held up a mask that drew into their eyes and appalled them. He began to dance and his laughter became a bloodthirsty snarling” (66). Jack covers his face and values with the paint, masking all inhibitions and making him a fearless beast ready to kill his desired pig on any whim.
Once again, a chance for rescue was lost. Jack, in his haste and pride of successfully kill-ing the pig, lets the fire out once again. However, this time the affair is grimmer; a ship crosses the horizon, which is likely their one and only hope of returning to civilization. Despite the se-verity of the situation, Jack still defends his careless actions, “‘There was a ship—’ One of the smaller hunters began to wail. The dismal truth was filtering through to everybody. Jack went very red as he hacked and pulled at the pig. ‘The job was too much. We needed everyone’” (75). He excuses his behavior and denies his wrongdoing, making the hunt appear more important than their possible rescue.
Jack, in “Beast from Water,” realizes that the rules are not enforced. They are followed out of respect for the chief, Ralph, but if no one follows them, who’s to tell them to stop? Jack defies Ralph’s authority,
“The rules!” shouted Ralph, “you’re breaking the rules!” “Who cares?” Ralph summoned his wits. “Because the rules are the only thing we’ve got!” But Jack was shouting against him. “Bollocks to the rules! We’re strong—we hunt! If there’s a beast, we’ll hunt it down! We’ll close in and beat and beat and beat—!” (99).

When one person challenges authority, it allows everyone to rethink it and empowers those who disagree to overthrow their leaders. One can only lead if others follow. Jack’s confronting Ralph may give the most rebellious of the group, the ones who initially voted for Jack as chief, the idea that Ralph is a disposable figure. This is shown in the quotation, “At once the platform was full of noise and excitement. The assembly shredded away and became a discursive and random scatter from the palms to the water and away along the beach, beyond night-sight” (99).
In the pig-run, all the boys are after a specific pig, which Ralph comes exceedingly close to nicking with his spear, but doesn’t succeed in hitting. After they discover the pig’s escape, a new game develops which consists of everyone circling around Ralph, who is portraying the pig, while the hunters jab at him with their spears. Suddenly the game turns to a violent thrashing over Robert,
Ralph, carried away by a sudden thick of excitement, grabbed Eric’s spear and jabbed at Robert with it. “Kill him! Kill him!” All at once, Robert was screaming and struggling with the strength and frenzy. Jack had him by the hair and was brandishing his knife. Behind his was Roger, fighting to get close. . . Ralph too was fighting to get near, to get a handful of that brown, vulnerable flesh. The de-sire to squeeze and hurt was overmastering (125).

Jack’s brutality influences the other children to become so caught up in the killing game that they can’t differentiate wrong from right or implement moral limits. Everyone loses control of their civility and their savagery steps forward to Jack’s level of satisfaction to make a perfect pandemonium; everyone hung in the moment, yearning to get their strike.
Jack’s craving for leadership resurfaces in “Gift for Darkness,” when he establishes an assembly to elect a chief once again. His tactics are blunt; he insults and mocks Ralph and his advisor, Piggy,
“Ralph thinks you’re cowards, running away from the boar and the beast. And that’s not all;” . . . “He’s like Piggy. He says things like Piggy. He isn’t a proper chief” (138) and then demands another vote, “Hands up,” said Jack strongly, “whoever wants Ralph not to be chief?” The silence continued, breathless and heavy and full of shame (139).

Yet again, his reach for power is suppressed.
Rather than conforming to Ralph’s decrees, Jack deserts the group and instigates anarchy against Ralph’s civilized tribe. He creates his own opposing group that consists of a small group of boys whose loyalty lies with him. In their new independence, they help him to kill another pig and Jack’s response is seemingly generous, “‘We’ll take the meat along the beach. I’ll go back to the platform and invite them to a feast’” (150). However, Jack’s motives are dishonorable; he merely wants to flaunt the abundance of fun and meat his tribe provides in comparison to Ralph’s group, which displays Jack’s hunger for attention. He wants to be accepted by Ralph’s tribe, but he can’t stand just being the leader of the hunters. Jack wants full control over every-one.
The small band of boys Jack has collected are crude and rough-edged; all they want is entertainment. Jack recognizes this and presents exactly what they crave, “‘Who’ll join my tribe and have fun?’” (166). He provides them the satisfaction of a primitive, yet childish society where they can dance and scream without cause. A sadistic air settles over this new-founded division when the boys are all “. . . grunting and charging” (167), once again reenacting the kill of the boar. “The hunters took their spears, the cooks took spits, and the rest clubs of fire-wood. While roger mimed the terror of the pig, the littluns ran and jumped on the outside of the circle” (167). They all, including Ralph and Piggy, are caught in the moment of savagery fueled by frenzied terror. That night, a death, lead by Jack, is to transpire, but not the death of the beast as all the boys originally think in their fanatical conditions. It is a fellow of the island.
Jack accepts the fate of Simon. He acknowledges how it happened,
“But didn’t we, didn’t we [kill the beast]—?”
He squirmed and looked down.
In the silence that followed each savage flinched away from his individual
“No! How could we—kill—it?” (177).

However, Jack is reluctant to admit what exactly occured.
In “Castle Rock,” when the boys are fighting over Piggy’s specs, Jack’s patience reaches its limit. He is no longer tolerant of Ralph’s constant disagreement and takes a swipe at him with his spear when they are atop the mountain. Despite the hate between the two, there is still a smidgeon of decency, “By common consent, they were using the spears as sabres now, no longer daring the lethal points” (196). No matter how much Jack despises Ralph, there will always be that common consent, a distant friendship.
Whatever honor Jack may have dissipates when he takes Samneric hostage. This is another example of his yearning for power because all he wants is to get to Ralph by means of Samneric. When Roger rolls the boulder onto Piggy in the rocks below, Jack uses Piggy’s death as a point towards his case, “‘See? See? That’s what you’ll get! I meant that! There isn’t a tribe for you any more! The conch is gone—’” (201). The last pacifist, the conch, is destroyed in the events of Piggy’s death; as well as the composure of the boys. The conch holds them together even in their times of calamity, “‘I tell you, I got the conch!’ Surprisingly, there was silence now” (199), and when the conch is destroyed, their self-possession disperses as well.
Jack rejoices in his power by torturing the whereabouts of Ralph out of Samneric. He is in it to kill. There is no more decency to be had, he wants death. The savages light the mountain on fire and end up chasing Ralph around the mountain through the smoke. The pursuit is as or-ganized as a pack of bloodthirsty brutes can be, and Ralph escapes to the shore where he finds his means of salvage.
Ironically, Jack’s actions end up being the cause of the boys’ rescue. Jack works so hard to go against Ralph’s demands of having a fire on the mountain, but Jack’s fire is what pushes Ralph to the edge of the island where the trim cruiser awaits them. Jack returns to his initial composure again when he sees the officer, “A little boy who wore the remains of an extraordi-nary black cap on his red hair and who carried the remains of a pair of spectacles at his waist, started forward, then changed his mind and stood still” (224). He loses his cruel and dominant charge, allowing Ralph to take his rightful chieftain position. Jack is no longer a savage, but a child again.
At the beginning of the novel, Jack presents himself as a young boy with a need for iden-tification and distinction. Throughout the novel; however, Jack’s childhood seems to dissipate. The reader forgets exactly what he is. He becomes a bloodthirsty beast that feeds on dominance and collects followers like a child collects trading cards. Jack is seemingly an adult, fully capable of performing horrific deeds as any human adult. Nearing the end of the novel when the officer comes to the island on his trim cruiser, Jack’s adult-like characteristics disperse and the child is back. There is someone to act the adult for him again.

Jack’s character in Lord of the Flies has a symbolic value that, according to Golding in his essay, Fable, ties to World War II. Jack is compared to the fascist dictator of Germany, Adolf Hitler, who ruled Germany with a tyrannical grip. Those who followed Hitler followed him to death, much like Jack’s group of savages. Roger, Robert, and the other boys of Jack’s tribe were all very determined to remain affixed with him. Dictatorship is when there is one ultimate leader whose decisions are followed vigorously or a nasty punishment, or in most cases death, would follow. Jack creates a dictatorship of the boys who are willing supporters and turns them against Ralph, Piggy, and the twins; much like Hitler did to the Jews. They follow orders without question,
“‘He’s going to beat Wilfred.’
‘What for?’
‘I don’t know, he didn’t say. He got angry and made us tie Wilfred up. He’s been’—he giggled excitedly—‘he’s been tied for hours, waiting—’
‘But the chief didn’t say why?’
‘I never heard him’” (176).

As well, Hitler was very biased in his views of evolutionary progression. He would have found Piggy’s genetic traits such as his weight, asthma, and poor eyesight to be inferior; much like Jack does. Jack immediately excludes Piggy for his differences, “‘You’re talking too much,’ said Jack Merridew. ‘Shut up, Fatty’” (17) disallowing him to participate in group discussions and deci-sions, “‘You shut up, you fat slug!’ . . . ‘Jack, Jack, you haven’t got the conch! Let him speak’ [said Ralph]” (98). Golding had created Jack as a Hitler-figure in response to World War II in order to express the brutality of the fascist community in those times of war.

Works Cited
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. London: Faber and Faber. 1954.

Jack in LOTF essay


Joined February 2008

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