How did the lack of society influence Jack throughout the novel Lord of the Flies?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator
In analyses of Lord of the Flies, critics have alluded to words from Aristotle: "Man, when perfected, is the best of animals, but when separated from law and justice, he is the worst." This observation of man's nature applies to Jack, who grows more brutal and savage after being separated from law and justice.

From the beginning, Jack displays his aggressive and cruel nature. For instance, at the beginning of the novel, as Piggy tries to get the names of the boys, Jack shouts at him, "Shut up, Fatty." (Ch. 1) Jack's humiliation of Piggy gives rise to much laughter from the other boys, thus encouraging Jack in his cruelty. Later, when the boys decide to have a chief, Jack desires the position. Ralph, however, is elected. After this loss, Jack determines to acquire a dominant role for himself; he finds this role as the leader of the hunters. Although he is unable to kill a pig on his first attempt, Jack soon succeeds. After this exciting experience of brutality, Jack becomes consumed with hunting. He paints his face and gives himself over to bloodlust. Without the constraints of rules and laws, Jack soon finds that the more brutal and savage he is, the more control he gains over the other boys. At one point, he tells Ralph, who asserts the authority of the conch, "You haven't got [the conch] with you.... You left it behind. See, clever? And the conch doesn't count at this end of the island." (Ch. 9)

Following this success, Jack degenerates into deeper savagery. Clearly, the absence of any civilized society allows Jack the license to exert force and cruel actions against the other boys with the assistance of his henchman Roger. Without society's laws to restrain the boys, Jack is also capable of infecting the other hunters with his lust for killing as they work themselves into a frenzy and beat the innocent Simon to death, chanting, "Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!" (Ch. 9) In the end, Jack and the others destroy the island as they set fire to the brush in their efforts to kill Ralph.

kapokkid eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Though he appears to have some desire for rules and civilization when he first appears, it is clear that Jack's forcing his choir to march in a line and wear their togs was not about order or rules but about power. Jack quickly realizes the need to have hunters and he is eager to exercise control over that aspect of the boys life on the island after Ralph is elected chief.

Because Piggy and Ralph represent society and order and rules, Jack immediately begins to be in conflict with Ralph both for leadership and over how they should organize life on the island in general. Jack believes that hunting and getting meat is far more important than the fire and the fire's connection to rescue so he immediately neglects that responsibility and focuses on the hunting.

As time goes on, Jack's ties to society grow thinner and thinner. He begins to organize the game where the boys pretend to stab and kill the pig, he argues that they can hunt and kill the beast, and he begins to paint his face and give in to the savagery of the island. Jack openly fights against Ralph's leadership and Ralph's desire to have order and rules and, in the end, triumphs and gains control of the entire group of boys.

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Lord of the Flies

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