Jack Merridew's Decline in Lord of the Flies

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Civilization is the force that keeps us all in line. We are taught from an early age that if we break a rule, we are punished. Why? Because that’s how society works. What would happen, though, if we took away society, civilization, and punishment. Would we keep up the rules that had been etched into us since birth and keep living in a civilized manner? In Lord of the Flies, Golding explores this scenario. In his opinion, a person would abandon all ideas of society and revert into a savage, relying on primal instincts to survive. The main character that goes through this is Jack. Throughout the book, Jack goes from being a civilized choir boy to a savage tyrant.

In the beginning of the book a plane crashes onto an island and the only survivors are a group of boys in a school choir. Enter Jack: the leader of a small group of choir boys. They call a meeting and decide how things will be run and decide on the rules. Jack seems for them, saying “We’ll have rules!...Lots of rules and then when anyone breaks ‘em-“(33). They then vote on a leader. The candidates are Jack and Ralph, and Ralph won. Although he isn’t happy about it, Jack accepts his loss, and decides to try his hand at exploring. While exploring with Ralph and Simon, Jack comes across a wild pig. He draws his knife in order to kill it but finds that he can’t. Something deep inside him says that it’s wrong to kill, “They knew very well why he hadn’t: because of the enormity of the knife descending and cutting into living flesh, because of the unbearable blood”. In his moment of hesitation the pig runs off, and he puts away the knife. Civilization won this time.

Even though his choir group is supposed to be watching the fire and making sure it’s lit, Jack takes ...

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... of calls to communicate. He has complete power over the tribe, bending them to his will. He’s become a dictator, savage and brutal. Rules no longer apply to Jack because he’s forgotten the society he comes from. All he cares about now is killing Ralph to take revenge. In his mind, killing is a totally acceptable thing to do. Jack has lost all reason. His plan to kill Jack fails though, when an unexpected rescuer shows up. It is unknown if Jack ever regains his civilized self. It seems unlikely though, given how he is at this point.

Civilization is the thing that keeps us in line. We have a system of checks and balances to make sure everyone behaves. If someone does something we believe to be morally wrong the person is punished. Take away civilization and society will go to ruin. People will revert back to their primal selves. Going on instinct and not intellect.

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