In Chapter 8 of "Lord of the Flies," why does Jack think they are beaten?  

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In Chapter 8 of "Lord of the Flies," it is Ralph, not Jack, who says, "So we can't have a signal fire...We're beaten."  He makes this remark because he believes that the beast on the mountain will prevent them from tending their fire.  It is at this point that Jack senses Ralph's feelings of defeat; so, he attempts to usurp power:  "What about my hunters?"

Ralph ridicules the hunters as "boys armed with sticks."  Enraged, Jack marches away, but only to blow the conch and call his own meeting to tell the hunters that Ralph thinks they are cowards.  Jack intimates that Ralph is not an effective ruler: 

He's like Piggy.  He says things like Piggy.  He isn't a proper chief....He's a coward himself.

Thus, Ralph's statement of being beaten becomes an example of dramatic irony.  For, he truly is beaten, but not by the beast because Piggy wisely suggests moving the fire to the seashore.  Rather than the beast on the mountain who defeats Ralph, it is the inherent "beast"--the "beast within" whom Simon later identifies--in Jack who senses Ralph's fear, and, like the predator that he is, he creates anarchy by splitting the boys into two separate factions, those who eat fruit and live on the beach, and those who hunt and eat meat.  Since the boys on the beach will have to start a new fire, Jack has, in essence, stolen fire from them.  This scene seems to allude to the mythological tale of Prometheus stealing fire from the gods and giving it to man.  And, the fire represents power, power that Jack and the hunters now have over Ralph and the others who are "beaten."


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