Jack: Almost the Hero of Lord of the Flies
Jack Merridew is the devil-like figure in the story, Lord of the Flies. Jack is wicked in nature having no feelings for any living creature. His appearance and behavior intimidates the others from their first encounter. The leading savage, Jack leans more towards hunting and killing and is the main reason behind the splitting of the boys. It has been said that Jack represents the evilness of human nature; but in the end, Jack is almost a hero
. With his totalitarian leadership, he was able to organize the group of boys into a useful and productive society
From the beginning of the novel Jack intimidates the other boys with his flaming red hair, his long black cape, and the brutal way he shouts orders to his choir. Although he is not a good-looking boy, he is amazingly arrogant. He always has to look good in people's eyes. Not that he cares if people like him, but more that they respect him. The only way he knows how to gain people's admiration is by getting them to fear him. He spots Piggy as an easy target and immediately starts to humiliate him in front of the others: "You're talking too much," said Jack Merridew
. "Shut up, Fatty."(21) He sizes up Piggy right from the beginning knowing that Piggy wouldn't stand up to him and by making fun of him he was letting the other boys know that he not one to be messed with. When he feels that people are about to think him to be weak or gutless, he uses his knife
as if it were a symbol of his superiority: "Jack slammed his knife into a trunk and looked round challengingly"(33). His knife gives him power, a weapon that he would use against anyone who dares to mock him.
He shows early on how he has no sympathy for anyone. For example, when Simon passed out from heat exhaustion on the beach Jack showed no compassion: "Let him alone.He's always throwing a faint."(20) Simon was not a stranger, he was a boy that Jack has spent a great deal of time with and yet he displays no feelings for him at all. He demonstrates a great deal of power over his choir. He orders them around as if they were puppets that he controls by working their strings and making them dance at will. This natural ability for Jack to control people and situations is what ultimately makes Jack the winner in the end. He turns Ralph's democratic society into his own tyrannical civilization where he shouts out orders and tells everyone how they should think and feel. He controls the boys by making them fear him and by making them feel strong and safe from the beast.
There was a rivalry between Jack and Ralph right from the beginning. Jack tried to express that he was the better leader by saying, "I ought to be chief.because I'm chapter chorister and head boy. I can sing C sharp"(22). After Ralph was elected, Jack and Ralph became friends. Jack began to see Ralph less as his rival and more as an equal, a commendable adversary worthy of his attention as well as his respect. You can tell by Jack's personality that he probably has very few friends in his life. As a result, Ralph's friendship meant a great deal to him and Jack began to support him in all his endeavors. As everyone was carrying up firewood to the mountain, Ralph turns to Jack and says, "Almost too heavy. Jack grinned back. Not for the two of us"(39). As the novel progresses, Jack becomes jealous of the close relationship that was forming between Piggy and Ralph. He starts making rude and sarcastic remarks such as: "That's right -- favor Piggy as you always do--"(91). When they go to hunt the beast and Ralph demands that Piggy should stay behind to watch the younger boys, Jack remarks cynically, "We mustn't let anything happen to Piggy, must we?"(117). As his jealousy grew into hatred he begins to notice Ralph's weaknesses and started to find ways to take away his power: "--And you shut up! Who are you anyway? Sitting there, telling people what to do. You can't hunt, you can't sing..."(91). Jack is trying to turn the boys against Ralph by showing them his flaws.
Jack has no desire to be rescued. At first Jack and his hunters do what they are asked to, but as time goes on, they start to participate in different activities and neglect those needed for the sake of the boys' salvation. He initially volunteers two of his hunters to look after the fire but later becomes obsessed with hunt and cannot think of anything else. He decides to take the two hunters off the fire and have them join him in the hunt. He develops his hunting skills by tracking pigs day and night. Eventually becoming more in touch with his primitive side, he grows less and less interested in anything connected to civilization including Ralph's rules: "Bollocks to the rules! We're strong-we hunt! If there's a beast, we'll hunt it down! We'll close it and beat and beat and beat...!"(91). Now everything revolves around hunting to Jack. He feels powerful when he hunts and becomes more like an animal than human.
Jack also loses interest as well as his patience with the conch. "Conch! Conch! shouted Jack. We don't need the conch any more"(102). He sees the conch as a symbol representing power, authority, and the call of civilization. The conch was seen as a token of their value. The conch was a rule that had been establish in the boys' first society. Jack is deviating from the original social order, and later tries to form his own society. He rebels at authority and attempts to create a new standard. After he leaves Ralph's group and forms his own, there were several times he could have stolen the conch, but does not. He wears a mask to hide behind, unleashing his inner feelings and desires, which enable him to become a savage creature. He brainwashes his tribe and himself telling them that the beast had disguised himself as Simon. He tells the tribe "He came-disguised He may come again even though we gave him the head of our kill to eat. So watch; and be careful"(160). The tribe questions Jack, knowing that they had killed the so-called beast. Jack replies, "No! How could we-kill-it?"(160). He doesn't refer to the beast as Simon ever or admit to himself or anyone else that they had killed him. He convinces himself that they had fought the beast and run him off so that he would feel no guilt for the tragic sin they had committed.
Jack is a determined leader much more ruthless and domineering than Ralph. The boys turn away from Jack initially, not ready to accept his violent leadership, but eventually found comfort in his strength and safety from the beast. They want to follow Jack's lead because he is more like them. He wants the same things they do. Jack doesn't want to work, only to play like the rest of them. He understands their fears and helps the boys to overcome them by making them stronger. A democratic society may seem fair for everyone concerned but in the end, Jack ends up winning. With his totalitarian leadership, he was able to organize the group into a useful and productive society and ends up getting them rescued by setting the island on fire.
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. New York: Putnam Publishing, 1954.