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Essay on jack in lord of the flies

essay on jack in lord of the flies

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In William Golding s novel, Lord of the Flies, a group of British schoolboys have crashed upon a desert island while being taken away from a war which is destroying the world. Forsaken and forlorn, what starts as a story from The Boxcar Children, ends up turning into anarchy, as the brutal primal instincts inside all of us envelop the boys. The leader of this anarchy is Jack, an ugly little child who unfolds to become a fascist, power hungry tool of the devil, the Lord of the Flies. Jack progresses through the story at an incredible pace. His evolution backwards into the core of human nature starts in the first chapter, and escalates up to a mighty crescendo, but he s stopped before he commits his ultimate act of violence. There are no parents to set limits on the island, and Jack seems to feel that adults are the only people worth paying any respect to, " the fairheaded boy with the creamy shell on his knees [Ralph] did not seem to satisfy him." Without the boundaries set by adults to sustain them, Jack and all of the other children are prone to forgetting the enactments that have kept their world entact until now. As they forget these rules, they become set up for their raw human self-preservation to come out in them. This human nature, this capacity for anger and violence in the boys is the beast. Every time Jack gets angry, the beast comes out in him and pushes him farther into his own savage being. When the book starts out, Jack is known as "Merridew" since it s a name that makes him feel adult and in charge, one given to him by the English society. When he loses the election to Ralph, he becomes humiliated and angry. This is his first push by the beast, for after the election, he is no longer known as Merridew, but just as Jack. From the beginning, we are aware that Jack is extremely violent, and this is without the help of the beast. This is why Jack was able to "give in" to it so quickly ;he didn t have as far to digress as the other children such as Ralph. Jack marches into the story in military fashion, parading his band of choirboys up the beach. His first two signs of violent power are the troop like manner in which he conducts his boys, and his knife. The knife obviously represents how violent he is, for Jack never uses it for anything else. The knife premiers in the book when Jack uses it to scare Piggy. As he develops however, he uses it to kill pigs, an interesting progression. Also, Ralph makes Jack s group of boys the hunters. Though he seems content with this at the time, Jack will not rest until he s the only chief. When Jack, Simon, and Ralph are going exploring in the first chapter, we learn a lot about Jack s character. There were two small dialogues which I think say a lot about him. The first one is when they are on a path and Ralph inquires as to who made it, "Men?" Jack shook his head. "Animals." This is a hint of what s going to come later in the book. Ralph associates something with possible rescue and civilization, whereas Jack associates it with wild savage animals. In the same chapter, the three boys find a bush of candle bushes. "You couldn t light them said Ralph." "Green candles," said Jack contemptuously. "We can t eat them. Come on." Not only is this an obvious example of what these two characters care about, survival versus rescue, but before the dialogue, something important happens ;Jack slashes the candles with his knife. Whether the author meant it or not, I think that Jack slashing the buds is another symbol of what s to come. Not because he did it so brutally, but because Jack is a rival of the fire on the top of the mountain later in the book, and since candle buds are immedietly assosiated with fire, this is Jack s first attack on it. Soon after this incident, we see that though Jack is evil at the beginning of the book, he s not evil enough without the beast. Without the beast to help him, Jack was unable to kill a pig caught in some thorns in the first chapter. Because of the blood the book says, the unbearable blood. This is Jack s humanity keeping him from killing another living thing. We can see this rationalism slipping away however as the book develops. For instance, in chapter three where there is a detailed description of Jack hunting, a number of transformations happen. As he begins the hunt, he has a sharp stick, yet when he can t find any pigs, and after it says " the frustration claimed him", he is suddenly carrying a spear. He is becoming less of a child, and more of a hunter. Less of a human completely for that manner, for on that same page, Jack is described as ape like. Soon after this, we see Jack becoming consumed by the beast for the first time. He is described as having, " the compulsion to track down and kill that was swallowing him up." He s so bloodthirsty he doesn t care about anything but hunting the pigs. Nothing else manners to him, not even rescue, "Jack had to think for a moment before he could remember what rescue was." Because of this, the once common bond of leadership which Jack and Ralph shared is not enough. They cannot communicate with each other, and therefore don t understand about what the other cares about. Because of this, Jack is less willing to have Ralph chief. Where once he liked Ralph and figured that at least he was a hunter, now he has an insatiable need to be a dictator again. Unfortunately, Jack gets too angry, he becomes too self-conscious of inadequacies to be a chief. The tool he uses to overcome this is his mask. Before the formation of Jack s evil fa ade, the book says that when Roger looks at him, he sees that " a darker shadow crept beneath the swarthiness of his skin." This is the beast, his capacity for evil and violence, and Jack s mask is what lets this come out. In fact, the very first thing he does after putting it on is emit a bloodthirsty snarl, and strike the water. The mask lets him forget among other things such as his responsibilities, one of them being to keep the fire lit. He does kill a pig however, and this is his first step toward domination of the children. Though they don t exactly think he should be leader, they admire him. "Jack looked round for understanding, but found only respect." Besides Jack s descent into savagery, there is the subject of his political power on the island. The island representing the world, and the author just returning from world war two, it should seem obvious that Jack is a fascist. There are a number of clues to this. There s the way the book describes his choirboys, "Their black caps of maintenance were slid over one ear like berets." Another sign of fascism is his wanting to make rules solely for punishment, so if someone were punished, it would be an example for the others, it would have them obey him out of fear. Most importantly however, there s his hatred of democracy, Piggy and the conch. Power hungry, Jack needed a way for people to want him for chief. The tool he used was "the snake thing." The children were scared of it and Jack used fascism to his advantage. He said that there isn t a snake thing, but if there were, he would kill it. In other words, it s necessary to have military power on this island for your protection, so let me be in charge, and you ll be safe from the snake thing. Once Jack plants this seed of doubt that the beast doesn t exist, he makes numerous attacks on the democracy on the island hoping to throw public opinion in his favor. His first attack is on the conch, which represents order and democracy. Jack claims, "The conch doesn t count on top of the mountain." This is immedietly countered by Ralph, and order is temporarily restored, for Jack is afraid to confront him. Once Jack s mask is painted on however, the fear is hidden by the clay and the darkness inside of him, and he verbally attacks Ralph himself, "Who are you anyway? Sitting there telling people what to do. You can t hunt, you can t sing." Jack isn t determined enough yet to be able to physically hurt Ralph since he s stronger than Jack is, but Jack is able to attack someone else. It s the beast which causes the "bolting to look came [to come] into his blue eyes." It s the beast which makes him "able at last to hit someone." That someone is Piggy. Jack smacks Piggy, breaking his glasses, another attack not only on clear sightedness and democracy, but on the fire and the boys ties to civilization. It s an attack on the fire since Piggy s glasses are used for lighting it. Even from this point in the story, one where Jack and Ralph are enemies, where Jack has jeopardized their rescue, and where he has forgotten much of the civilized world, he continues to digress. The group s resentment of Ralph grows not only as they forget about the fire, but as Ralph does too. Because of this, Ralph has a harder time convincing them to light a signal when they would rather be making a fort. When he finally gets them to go with him, they boys follow mutinously, with Jack leading the way. Just promoting thoughts of mutiny isn t enough however. Jack is so ravenous for leadership, he becomes angry every time he isn t leading. Jack calls a meeting by blowing the conch "inexpertly". Since the conch is a symbol of leadership, Jack s insufficient blowing technique means he s not as good a leader as Ralph is. Jack would be a dictator who cares about nothing but survival, hunting and eating. Jack calls upon the boys to join him, and to leave the rescue-oriented world run by Ralph. Without his mask however, Jack s psyche is naked and unprotected from the public refusal to join Jack s tribe. He runs into the forest, but is joined later by the boys who just didn t want to face the wrath of Ralph. Jack has finally won, he is a chief. He now has total militant control over the island. The first thing he does as chief is create a primal society. The boys decide that since they re hunters, that s just what they ll do, hunt. Jack s boys prepare a banquet in an attempt to recruit the rest of the children. In doing so, they kill a mother pig. Jack decides that instead of trying to understand the beast, his tribe will leave an offering to it after every kill. The beast is also named the Lord of the flies, which translates into the devil. This ancient practice of brutal sacrifice to an unknown being is devil worship, making Jack also a sadist. The night of the feast, Jack sits there " like an idol", and demands a drink. (This is opposed to the more rational and civilized Jack in chapter three who asked for a drink after the hunt.) Idol is a good word choice. It is another example of ancient uncivilized cultures, where objects such as the sun, or people who seemed extraordinary were worshipped out of fear as gods. Jack is followed because of just that, fear. The children stay with him not only because he can hunt better than all of them, but because they fear to do anything else. There s another connection between the word "idol" and Jack. Long ago, when Europeans were just discovering new lands, and even in the bible, idols were considered tools of the Devil used to corrupt mankind. Jack is a tool of the lord of the flies, the beast, who is using Jack to create anarchy on the island. This is opposed to Simon, a Christ-like figure that chooses to understand the beast instead of embrace it like Jack does. After the feast, Jack builds a violent monument to his own power in the form of a fort. The fort is completely unnecessary, even the savages with Jack can see that, but he says they need it to protect themselves from the beast. This is just another instance of fascism where Jack has convinced them that they need his battle instinct and intelligence to survive. Not only is the fort made, but the night after the feast, Jack makes his final Promethean plunder on the island. This time however, he doesn t just steal a lit branch, he steals Piggy s glasses. At this point in the novel, we see for the first time that Jack s ties to civilized society have been almost completely obliterated. Not only has he forgotten about the fire, but he has also begun to lose part of his English identity again. After the glasses are stolen, he isn t called Jack anymore, he s simply referred to as "chief". (You may remember from the beginning of my essay that the first digression Jack makes is the loss of his title, "Merridew.") He doesn t even remember what the glasses are for, except they are a no longer a symbol of democracy, they are a symbol of victory and a tool for lighting a cooking fire. This is just another example that Jack is running a completely savage and hunting-oriented tribe, which is concerned with nothing but the cooking of pig. At the end of the novel, Jack s ultimate right of passage into complete domination of the island is the assassination of Ralph. Planning to sacrifice him to the Lord of the flies, Jack burns Ralph out of his hiding place. Ironically, the fire that Jack created to kill Ralph was the thing that saved him from his death. This is because the fire has attracted a naval officer. The presence of an adult brings the boys back to reality, and the rules which they so easily forgot without the presence of elderly authority are violently remembered. Jack is no longer a savage, but an ugly "little boy" again, no more than a frail example that grade-schoolers develop bad habits and manners when unsupervised. Jack s shift from English snobbery to primal savagery, from verbal trickery to fascist ruling is a prime example of what happens when our civil selves are masked and forgotten, and the evil nature inside of us comes out. Jack never meant for all of that to happen, he was just a jealous boy whose feelings were hurt when he wasn t chosen chief, and who wanted to have some fun. Because of Jack s already violent nature, the beast inside of him was easily able to slowly transform his psyche until all he really cared about was killing and eating, the basic primal instincts implanted in all of us. Since Jack was "the first to go" in a way, he became a leader for the boys who were influenced later in the book by the beast. Jack never meant for the anarchy that he and the Lord of the flies created together to kill, but once it did, it s total consumption of the children seemed inevitable. The only thing that could stop Jack from leading the tribe and himself into self-destruction, was the soldier from the outside world, whose warship buried the beast in the boys, and brought it out in the last warriors of a world which lay in ruins.

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essay on jack in lord of the flies


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