William Golding creates many characters in his novel, Lord of the Flies, but the most influential is Jack Merridew. He experiences a change that directly influences the outcome of the novel. He goes from a very innocent English schoolboy to this beast or savage that totally twists the novel. Jack doesn’t like to follow Ralph, the leader of the group; instead he wants the boys all to himself and will do anything to get them. Jack sets a bad example for the other boys and the “littluns”. He puts on a mask to hide himself and do the things he couldn’t do without it. He shows his own plummet into brutality and violence. Even though Jack so desperately wants to be the leader of the group, Ralph and Piggy know it won’t be a good idea. He makes decisions out of anger and the only reason the boys listen to him is because he intimidating and they are fearful. The little boys are like sponges and will “soak” up anything they are fed. Jack is the reason that the little boys on the island turn from civilization to savages; he should be looked at for the little boys’ actions. Golding created this character because it forms the basis of the novel, which is the idea of civilization gone to savagery. Golding soundly states that when there is no grown-up supervision or consequences in life, people will turn to savages. The main reason people are considerate and not savages is due to the consequences such as; being caught, imprisonment or being fined.
The first time that we see Jack get a taste for savagery is the point at which he puts on the mask. The mask can be very intimidating and it can compel the boys to do things they don’t want to do. It is a tool used to unveil your inner beast because it shields the real you. The mask is something that the little boys can hide behind. They are hiding themselves and that allows their inner beast to come out. It takes away the humanity from them. He “looked in astonishment, no longer at himself but an awesome stranger.” (Page 63) The mask gives Jack the power and confidence he needs to act so unreasonably. In a way, it gives him pride and confidence.
Readers see the most of Jack’s savagery after Piggy’s death. Although his savagery has been building up throughout the novel, it is at this point that we see Jack as the true and complete beast. Jack split the tribe because he wanted all the power. He didn’t like the fact that Ralph had all the power and the loyalty of the boys. He didn’t even want to split the power with Ralph; he wanted it all for himself. Golding says, “Suddenly, Jack bounded out from the tribe and began screaming wildly. See? See? That’s what you’ll get! I mean that! This isn’t a tribe for you anymore! The conch is gone—He ran forward, stooping. I’m Chief!” (Page 181) The only way that Jack thought to gain that power was to attract attention, he tried to be the “brave” one and go out hunting. The entire idea of civilization died with Piggy and the destruction of the conch. Piggy was the symbol for civilization and the conch was the last and only object that still resembled organization. Once they were gone, all hope was lost.
Jack is now on the side of savagery, first seen in demanding Ralph’s exile and then planning his death. The fact that Jack has the idea and is willing to actually mount a human’s head on a stick shows his disconnect from reality. Golding says, “What could they do? Beat me? So what? Kill him? A stick sharpened at both ends.” (Page 198) This is suggesting that Jack is planning to kill Ralph and then mount his head on a stick, like they did with the sow. The only reason Jack couldn’t actually execute his plan in killing Ralph was because the Naval Officer showed up. If the officer never came to the island, it is led to believe that Ralph was next on Jack’s hit list and eventually Jack would have ruled the island.
Jack Merridew has completely lost all value for human life. Golding is trying to connect Jack’s character to how he sees people today. Golding’s beliefs are that if there were no government or anybody in charge, the world would turn to complete and total chaos. The novel is very closely related to how Golding views the world and how he thinks that we are born savages and are just civil simply because of the consequences.
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