In Chapter 4 of Lord of the Flies what is the significance of Jack's mask?
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The mask Jack paints on his face is significant for several reasons:
1. The mask includes the symbolic color of red. This blood color seems to accompany what occurs as soon as Jack lives life after the painting of the face.
2. The mask brings out Jack's violence and takes away his inhibitions. Jack becomes even more mean and demanding among the boys. His capacity to understand and employ social means of courtesy is gone. We see this in his treatment of Piggy as Jack's insults increase and he even tries to keep meat from Piggy. Jack grows in his use of intimidation and fear.
3. The mask uncovers the the savage in Jack. Only after Jack has painted his face is he able to actually kill a pig.
Jack's ultimate change from cooperative to intimidating, from a team player to a fearful leader happens here. The mask marks the complete and total shift in his character.
Jack's reason for painting his face, is because he beilves that the pigs see him not smell him, so he wants to try and blend in with his surroundings.
The significance of the mask is that it helps transform Jack from an ordinary schoolboy into a fearsome hunter. Initially, this seems like no bad thing. Food is required, and Jack will be able to provide it. Also, his reason for painting on the mask in the first place is so that it will camouflage him during the hunt of the wild pigs and make it easier to capture one. This seems perfectly acceptable and sensible.
However, the mask also has a negative influence, as it changes not only Jack's appearance but also his character and - crucially - his perception of himself. When he first sees his own reflection with the mask on, he is both amused and amazed:
He looked in astonishment, no longer at himself but at an awesome stranger. He spilt the water and leapt to his feet, laughing excitedly. Beside the pool his sinewy body held up a mask that drew their eyes and appalled them. He began to dance and his laughter became a bloodthirsty snarling. He capered toward Bill, and the mask was a thing on its own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness.
The mask, then, represents a certain "liberating" force, imparting a wild freedom to Jack and allowing him to put away all civilized restraint. The trouble is that this goes too far and ends in sheer savagery and anarchy. Jack and the other hunters simply cannot check themselves once their descent into wildness and violence begins. We see the first intimations of this in this chapter, with Roger willfully throwing stones at Henry and Jack hitting Piggy. Later the pig hunt itself will become utterly ferocious and brutal, with the killing of the sow described in shockingly graphic terms.
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