Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Ralph, a British schoolboy who is the boys’ chief until Jack weans them away and turns Ralph into their prey. Ralph is the chief spokesman for civilized values in the novel. It is Ralph who finds the conch shell that comes to symbolize order and Ralph who advocates building shelter and keeping a fire going. The son of a naval officer, Ralph is dedicated to duty and the hope of eventual rescue. For Ralph, keeping a fire going is almost an obsession, and it is ironic that the fire set at the end of the novel to drive him out of hiding attracts the ship that lands to rescue the boys. At times, however, Ralph is tempted by the allure of barbarism, a conflict apparent early in the novel when he encounters Piggy. First taunting Piggy, then regretting his behavior, he foreshadows his later hesitancy in asserting the values he initially represents. In fact, Ralph is toying with the idea of giving in and joining Jack’s band when he learns that Jack is planning to kill him.
Jack Merridew, another schoolboy, Ralph’s antagonist. Jack is a charismatic leader unable to accept a subservient role in the society created by the boys. He revels in the hunt and the power it confers on him, and he relishes the anarchy accorded the group by the absence of adult supervision. Jack uses fear, ritual, and violence to secure the blind obedience of the other boys. For Jack, superior strength and weaponry, not rules, agreements, and elections, confer leadership....
(The entire section is 617 words.)
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