In a discussion of William Golding's Lord of the Flies as an allegory, the reader recognizes the major characters as archetypes, or embodiments of a generic personality type which has recognizable and typical behaviors. Ralph and Jack Merridew are the two characters in Golding's novel who become leaders and who vie for ultimate leadership.
From the first pages of the narrative, Ralph emerges as the "born leader," the stereotypical "golden boy" who is handsome and charismatic. Repeatedly he is referred to as "the fair boy." This phrase indicates his light hair, but it is also a 1950s buzzword for "favorite" (e.g. The boss's fair haired boy=his favorite). When Piggy asks him his name, he merely replies with his first name: "Ralph"--an indication of his importance as very famous people such as biblical figures and movie and rock stars are often known just by their first names. Uninhibited as he is aware of his beauty, Ralph quickly strips off his clothes from his "golden body" so he can jump into the water and cool off. Confident and somewhat arrogant, Ralph laughs at Piggy's nomenclature and mock's Piggy's plea not to call him by this name. After the swim,he commands Piggy to get his clothes, and laughs with pleasure at the prospect of having "a coral island" on which to dwell.
When Piggy shows him the conch and explains how to blow into it, Ralph uses the conch to call the others on the island. The children who respond automatically give him "the same simple obedience that they had given to the men with megaphones," because Ralph is a commanding figure. However, upon the arrival of Jack Merridew, Ralph recognizes his rival; he seeks to override Jack's order to Piggy--"Shut up, Fatty," by telling a small boy named Henry to "Shut up," adding "Seems to me we ought to have a chief to decide things."
A dark party of boys, the choir, emerges from a mirage after Ralph blows the conch. As they fall into line, a tall boy shouts orders which the choir wearily obeys. When one boy collapses from the heat and sun, the tall boy dismisses his act as a pretense: "He's always throwing a faint,...He did in Gib; and Addis; and at matins over the precentor." As the choir boys snigger, they examine Ralph with interest. But, Piggy asks no names, for he is intimidated by
the uniformed superiority and the offhand authority in Merridew's voice. He shrank to the other side of Ralph...
Repeating his last name, Golding has Merridew say, "Then we'll have to look after ourselves," thus attempting to take charge of the situation. Ralph asserts himself, saying, "We'd better all have names...so, I'm Ralph." But Merridew vies with him for dominance,
"Kids' names," said Merridew. "Why should I be Jack? I'm Merridew."
When Ralph calls for the election of a chief, Merridew--who, interestingly is now referred by Golding only as "Jack," loses his prominence although Piggy
is intimidated by this uniformed superiority and the offhand authority in Merridew's voice.
The two archetypes, Ralph and Jack, thus become the two opposing forces of man's nature in the allegorical novel--the one civilized and the other brutish and savage.