Ralph, Jack, and Piggy in the Lord of the Flies

Ralph, Jack, and Piggy in the Lord of the Flies

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How are the characters of Ralph, Jack and Piggy established in the
opening chapters of the novel Lord of the Flies

At the start of the novel we learn that during a nuclear war, there
was an atomic explosion. Many boys were evacuated on an aircraft with
a detachable passenger tube. They were flying over tropical seas via
Gibraltar and Addis Ababa when the tube was released and
crashed-landed in the jungle of an island. The aircraft flew off in
flames and overnight the remains of the tube were swept out to sea in
a storm. No adults survived, so the remaining boys had to look after
themselves. They realised that the plane had been attacked and after
all the boys are reunited their individual characters are revealed in
depth.

Ralph from the start is portrayed as a nice friendly person who wants
to find a way to get home and to keep the people's spirits high. He is
the leader of the group. He tries to keep a democracy, but Jack's
aggressive nature does not allow it to last very long. Ralph is
probably the most likable person in the book, because of his good
nature and his handsome looks, "His size and attractive appearance".
Ralph means "counsel" in the Anglo- Saxon language, and he's the one
who calls all the meetings by blowing the conch, and he's chosen as
the leader. The conch is seen as a powerful symbol, and he holds it.
Ralph does not specialize in any area of human behaviour, except maybe
for having common sense (building shelters, climbing the mountain to
see if it is an island) and Jack can be seen as his opposite. At the
beginning, clearly Ralph feels that Jack is an ally, a companion; not
a rival for leadership, "Ralph found himself alone on a limb with Jack
and they grinned at each other ... that strange invisible light of
friendship". The chosen leader of the group, Ralph tried to lead the
stranded boys into some kind of order. The authority of Jack and the
sensibility of Piggy easily sway him. When Ralph first meets Piggy, he
sees him as a lower person who should be ridiculed. He starts off by
asking for his name and he is told that people used to make fun of him
with the name 'Piggy'. Piggy didn't want to be known by that name
anymore. However, Ralph then starts to shout to the other boys that
his name is 'Piggy' as a joke. This shows that Ralph, while being a
friendly and kind person, sometimes will make fun of another person to

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get a laugh. Straight afterwards he feels bad about it, "Ralph looked
with understanding at Piggy, and saw that he was hurt and crushed".
However, afterwards Ralph apologises to Piggy, however still calls him
Piggy, which Piggy now doesn't seem to mind as much. He seems to be a
floater in the group - unknowing of whether to do good or evil. In one
case, Ralph is like the basic human race; humans know what is right
and know the right thing to do; yet they do not always do it due to
pressure of society, etc. This perhaps shows why Golding decided to
use Ralph's name with his character because his character did display
signs of leadership throughout the novel. "He might make a boxer, as
far as width and heaviness of shoulders went, but there was a mildness
about his eyes that proclaimed no devil". This shows that Ralph is
quite well built, strong and slightly adult like, whilst there was
still some childish features about him. He was viewed as a hero and
was almost worshipped by all the boys, possibly because of his
physical attraction. Golding used descriptive words to show the boys'
personality, "Looked at the water with, bright, excited eyes". Ralph
was of the adventurous nature and he is excited about being on the
island with no adults to order him about. "Fair hair" suggests a good
nature.

Jack is the most evil-minded person on the island, the exact opposite
of Ralph. Jack's name comes from Hebrew and means "one who supplants,"
meaning he takes over by force. At the start he says that he wants to
be called Merridew, instantly showing that he wants to forget his old
name that was Jack. He wants to go by a new identity so that he can
have fun without having to worry about things; he has left his old
civilised self behind and is a new person. Jack is angry that he is
not elected as leader, but the way Golding describes his appearance
makes us feel uncomfortable about him anyway, "Inside the floating
cloak he was tall, thin and bony: his hair was red beneath the black
cap". This is Golding's most detailed description of any of the boys.
He makes jack appear angry and evil. Jack constantly harasses Piggy,
and in the end he turns on Ralph. "The group of cloaked boys began to
scatter. The tall boy shouted at them ' Choir! Stand still'". Despite
the intense heat and the tiredness of the choir; one of who faints
shortly after Jack's command, Jack insists that they stand smartly. He
treats his choir cruelly; more like an army troop than a choir of
boys. His behaviour towards the choirboys suggests that he is quite a
cruel boy. Jack almost represents the evilness of human nature; he
lives only to kill and it does not seem to occur to him the possible
outcome of being stranded on the island. This reflects why Golding
used the name Jack for this character; Jack used force more than
logic. "Jack turned fiercely. 'You shut up!'". Jack finds Piggy
irritating. He would much rather Piggy was not on the island and is
constantly telling him to shut up because he does not care about what
Piggy has to say. He thinks that his time one the island is a time to
break against the normal rules that adults impose and to do whatever
he wants. He shows this when he decides to turn against Ralph who
wants to live a civilised life and to keep things in order. He is
pessimistic about their chances of being rescued and does not really
want to be rescued because he wants to live on the island away from
life and away from adults and away from rules. He is rather bony and
has a freckled and crumpled face.

Piggy is the smart and logical one, though not quite as perceptive and
biblical as Simon is. "The fat boy hung steadily at his shoulder",
before Piggy's name is learnt, he is referred to as being 'the fat
boy', suggesting he is fat. The name Piggy connects him to the pigs
that the boys want to kill and eat, and shows how much he is disliked
by the boys. He is set apart from the others because of his glasses,
and his "ass-mar," and his weight. Piggy is Ralph's advisor, and is
the one to suggest blowing into the conch. Piggy is smart, but has no
place in the land of the wild. He is not fit to live with the new-born
savages. "You're no good on a job like this... we don't want you",
This quote sums up the opinions of the other characters towards Piggy.
They do not realise his usefulness and just want rid of him. In the
end, his death brings a symbolic end to civilization on the island.
"How do you expect to be rescued if you don't put things first and act
proper". Piggy does not see this as an adventure - just as something
that has happened and he would like to escape from as quickly as
possible. He wants to do everything practically and in order of
importance to survive whereas the other characters see it as an
adventure and a bit of fun. "Like a pack of kids!" Piggy refers to the
other children as 'kids', suggesting he feels he is the only adult
role model. This outburst implies that although he has practical,
intelligent ideas, he rarely has the confidence to speak up. Although
he is the only person who has any sense of what to do, he is ignored
and rebuked. He has a distinct sense of what is not only morally
right, but logically right as well. He is the only one who is
concerned about the possibility of being stranded on the island. He
seems to be the only one left with socialized morals and a civilized
outlook. The brains of the group, Piggy is ridiculed and mocked
because of his physical appearance. He has pale skin and bad eyes, is
short and fat, has a cockney accent, and has asthma. He tend to fuss
about his illnesses quite a lot.

In conclusion Golding has tried to explore that civilisation is a thin
layer, that will be broken. Later on when there is the fire, Ralph
makes a co-operated effort to put it out, but the co-operated effort
ends in disorder and quarrelling. It shows that the democracy that was
at first cherished starts to unravel. Golding uses Jack as the key
character in making the civilisation disintegrate and become
non-existent.
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