Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Describe Jack as a leader in William Golding's Lord of the Flies.

Expert Answers info

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2010

write4,539 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

In Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, two boys emerge as leaders from the very beginning. Ralph is elected leader by the boys on the island simply because he looks like a leader to them; Piggy has all the attributes of a leader but is never considered one because of his appearance. Jack, the red0headed boy, is a leader when he arrives on the island, and he maintains that position throughout the entire novel. Though he might be considered an effective leader because he maintains leadership, Jack is not a good leader.

Jack is the leader of the choir simply because he "can sing C sharp." He obviously rules the choir by intimidation, as they are afraid even to sit or take off their hot cloaks and hats without his permission. He is rude and bossy, demanding to know where the adults are and telling Piggy (whom he calls "Fatty") to "shut up" because he is "talking too much."

When the boys hold an election, no one votes for Jack until the choir reluctantly raises their hands for him. When he loses, Ralph can see that Jack is mortified and offers him the chance to be head of the choir; Jack quickly agrees and says he will be in charge of the hunters.

Jack is not a good leader because he becomes obsessed with hunting; he only cares about the others if and when they can help him him hunt. He is selfish and self-absorbed, Even when he manages to provide meat, Jack is cruel and humiliating to Piggy about eating. When his authority is challenged (which usually happens inadvertently when Ralph just does what he thinks needs to be done), Jack gets angry and wants to fight.

A good leader would take care of his followers, but Jack has no feelings for anyone but himself. He is not interested in trying to get rescued, nor does he care about anything that would improve their lives on the island. His obsession is hunting and accumulating power, and he spends his time doing both.

Soon Jack has moved his tribe to the fort on the mountain. He and his tribe members steal Piggy's glasses, the only means any of them have to start a fire. He participates in Siomon's murder and, unlike Ralph, feels no remorse for his actions. He allows Roger to drop the boulder which crushes both Piggy and the conch he is holding, eliminating all semblance of order. 

As the story progresses and Jack now hides behind the mask of face paint, he also gets more savage. By the end of the novel, Golding refers to Jack only as the chief of his savage tribe. He maintains obedience by violence and he even attacks Ralph directly with his spear. When Jack orders his tribe (which is now everyone on the island except Ralph) to kill Ralph, he means it. 

If the boys had not been rescued, Jack would have gained complete control of the island--or what was left of it after he nearly burned it all. More deaths would undoubtedly have occurred.

When the naval officer arrives, however, the readers are reminded of just who and what Jack really is. The officers asks,

“Who’s boss here?”
“I am,” said Ralph loudly.
A little boy who wore the remains of an extraordinary black cap on his red hair and who carried the remains of a pair of spectacles at his waist, started forward, then changed his mind and stood still.

Jack is an intimidating, violent person who maintains leadership by force; however, he is also just a little red-haired boy who is intimidated in the presence of an adult in uniform. 

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

muhammednusky | Student



check Approved by eNotes Editorial
bryan999 | Student

Although Jack eventually wins most of the "tribe" over, his idea of a life in the jungle is barbaric and rather than use orthadox methods he begins to result to violence more and more. 

check Approved by eNotes Editorial