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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Lord of the Flies by William Golding-Free Summary
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JACK

Jack comes from the Hebrew and means "one who supplants," one who takes over by force. This is how Jack gains and uses power. He is the character who has the most conflict with Ralph.

Tall and thin, with red hair and freckles, Jack is marching the boys' choir down the beach when we first meet him. Unlike Ralph, Jack hungers for leadership positions. The impression that Golding gives us is of someone who is cruel. Jack has marched the boys in the glaring sun and lets them rest only when one of them faints. Although the word "military" is never used about Jack, there is something about his manner that suggests military or authoritarian power.

In contrast with Ralph's good-naturedness, Jack is jealous when the boys don't elect him as leader. When Jack isn't getting his way, he lashes out, often attacking Piggy, a boy much weaker than he. Jack is like a bully you might know in school; when he doesn't get what he wants, you know that he'll get even.

Jack changes as the story advances. At the beginning he can't make himself kill the first piglet they encounter. But Jack learns to trail the pigs, smelling their steamy droppings in order to find them. He allows his animal instinct, which had been restrained in the choir, to surface. He makes use of masks, dance, and ritual, knowing they will loosen the beast in himself and the other boys. He creates the chant, "Kill the pig. Slit her throat. Bash her in," which is used first to reenact the killing of the pig in a ritual dance later to kill Simon.


Jack's animal instincts flourish in the jungle, and he encourages them in the other boys. As he and his methods become more primitive, they come in direct conflict with Ralph's. Together Jack and Ralph are like Cain and Abel, the one bent on killing, the other on preserving.

When Jack finally manipulates the leadership of the group away from Ralph, he uses fear and threats to control the boys. There is no discussion as there was under Ralph, only compliance. Anyone who does not see things the way Jack does is a threat and has to be beaten into submission or killed.

While Jack's leadership is threatening, he does give the boys a way to cope with their fears of the beast. He teaches them to use their fear of something larger than themselves by turning it on someone smaller and less powerful. That is how he rules them; that is the only leadership he understands and respects.

Unlike Ralph, Jack has no concern for being fair and allowing the boys to share in their own fate. He lusts for power and is driven to destroy anyone who gets in his way. Jack cares only about himself. Thus his character demonstrates another way in which power may be used.

It is difficult to like Jack. However, we recognize that he does take the responsibility for getting food and dealing with the fear of the beast. In extreme situations such as this, perhaps it is necessary and right to use extreme methods. How you feel about this will depend on your own beliefs.

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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Lord of the Flies by William Golding-Free Summary
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