Normally, when we think of worlds, the planet Earth comes to mind. What we don’t often remember is that the word world can mean more than the Earth. Webster’s New World Dictionary states that the true definition of the word world is, “some part of the earth, or an individual experience, outlook..” Keeping that definition in mind, it is true to say that the boys in Lord of the Flies were in their own world, so to speak. And it is also true that every world has its problems. A contemporary psychiatrist wrote , “The problems of the world – and they are chronicled daily in headlines of violence and despair – essentially are the problems of individuals. If individuals can change, the course of the world can change. This is a hope worth sustaining.” This quote can apply both to the larger world of the Earth, and the smaller world of the island.
On the island, the boys had problems from the beginning. Both Ralph and Jack wanted to be chief and when the rest of the biguns and littluns voted for Ralph, it caused friction between Jack and Ralph. Ralph tried to deal with this problem by appointing Jack the leader of the hunters and keepers of the fire. He had hoped this would repair any damage that had been done to their short friendship. Ralph was doing his duty as the chief and tried to deal with their individual problems. However, this solution ended up doing more harm than good. The friction between Ralph and Jack flourished throughout the book.
Jack soon became obsessed with savagery and killing pigs. The only
thing he cared about was meat. And Jack does kill a pig; however killing that pig sacrificed the fire and the boys missed a rescue
opportunity because the fire went out. But Jack doesn’t seem to care.
“Jack, his face smeared with clays, reached the top first and hailed Ralph excitedly, with lifted spear.
‘Look! We’ve killed a pig-we stole up on them-we got in a circle-’
They seemed to share one wide ecstatic grin. Jack had too many things to tell Ralph at once. Instead he danced a step or two, then remembered his dignity and stood still, grinning.
Ralph spoke. ‘You let the fire go out.’
Jack checked, vaguely irritated by this irrelevance but too happy to let it worry him.
‘There was lashings of blood,’ said Jack, laughing and shuddering.
‘You should have seen it!’ Ralph spoke again, hoarsely.
He had not moved.
‘You let the fire go out.’”
Jack doesn’t care that he screwed up; all that really matters to him is that he killed a pig. Ralph is very upset that Jack let the fire go out because being rescued is his top priority. Having fun is Jack’s top priority, and his callousness towards things Ralph sees as important adds to the friction building up between the two boys.
As the book continues, more and more Jack tries to assert himself as the chief. He comes up with wild games that the boys can play after the kill. He became the leader in the forest, where it’s all dark and scary, and Ralph was the chief on the beach where there was order. Even here, it’s evident that Jack is the type of ruler who wants an absolute monarchy – he likes to give orders, not take them. Ralph is a more democratic leader who listens to other people and takes advice. Jack offers protection and direction; Ralph offers goals, steadiness. Even at the basic personality level, there is a wide difference between Ralph and Jack. And most importantly, Jack is very ambitious. Jack wants power and to be chief. All of these differences and anxieties come to head after Simon, Ralph, Jack and Roger try and slay the beast. Jack says:
“‘He’s not a hunter. He’d have never got us meat. He isn’t a prefect and we don’t know anything about him. He just gives orders and expects people to obey for nothing. All this talk-’
‘All this talk!’ shouted Ralph. ‘Talk, talk! Who wanted it? Who called the meeting?’
‘All right then,’ he said in deep tones of meaning, and menace, ‘all right. Who thinks Ralph oughtn’t to be chief?’
He look expectantly at the boys ranged around, whohad frozen. Under the palms there was deadly silence.
‘Hands up,’ said Jack strongly, ‘whoever wants Ralph not to be chief?’
The silence continued, breathless and heavy and full of shame…[Jack]licked his lips and turned his head at an angle so that his gaze avoided the embarrassment of linking with another’s eye.
‘How many think-’ His voice trailed off.
‘I’m not going to play any longer. Not with you. I’m not going to be a part of Ralph’s lot–’
He blundered out of the triangle towards the drop to the white sand.
Jack turned and looked back at Ralph. For a moment he paused and then cried out, high-pitched, enraged.
It is at this moment that the group splits apart. Once they are not together and strong, chaos takes over. Jack becomes a tyrant, going more and more towards savagery, backing up his orders with physical abuse. Jack and his hunters kill two very good people and try to kill Ralph before all of this is stopped by the appearance of a naval officer. It is the problems that Jack causes that create the rift between the group of boys. Jack is the savage one, Jack is the problem maker. This whole book would have turned out differently had Jack thought about more than himself. If he had thought about the good of the group and what would benefit everyone, some of the problems would not have occurred.
Imagine if Jack had decided to accept Ralph as his chief for the good of the group. If he had taken it upon himself to be a good hunter and flame-keeper, the fire would have never gone out and the group would have been rescued. Piggy and Simon would still be living. The island would have been more than a dead rock. The psychologist said, “If individuals can change, the course of the world can change.” If Jack had changed, the outcome of the island group would have been
I feel that the message in the book is that a society is never a sum of its parts. If there are savage people in a society, then the society will be savage. Maybe not outright, and maybe not right away, but the savageness is always lurking right beneath the surface. If a society was made up of all saints, it would be a purely good society where everything was beautiful (as Simon was) and nothing was vicious. If individuals would change, change their morals and their ethics, a society could become greater and stronger. However, if individuals refuse to change, society could degenerate into all violence and savagery, as it did in Lord of the Flies. If people are willing to change, the world (any world) will become stronger and “better”. And that is, indeed, a hope worth sustaining.
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