In William Golding's Lord of the Flies, how does Jack change after he was not elected chief in the first chapter?

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, recounts the story of some English schoolboys who have been stranded on a tropical island after their airplane crashed. Most of them do not know one another; the exception is a group of choirboys of whom Jack Merridew is the leader.

Jack and the other choirboys come marching across the beach after hearing Ralph blow the conch shell. It is clear from the beginning that Jack is a strict leader, because they all remain standing, despite the heat and their fatigue, until he allows them to sit. Eventually the entire group decides to vote for a leader. Ralph is the first to suggest it and the others begin clamoring for a chief. Jack, of course, assumes he is the obvious choice because he is already a leader.

“I ought to be chief,” said Jack with simple arrogance, “because I’m chapter chorister and head boy. I can sing C sharp.”

What we soon deduce is that Jack is not an effective leader, as evidenced by the fact that none of his choirboys want to vote for him but are pressured by his look into doing so. (And of course being able to sing a C sharp is not a useful skill in these circumstances.)

After Ralph wins the simple election, 

...the circle of boys broke into applause. Even the choir applauded; and the freckles on Jack’s face disappeared under a blush of mortification. He started up, then changed his mind and sat down again while the air rang.

In an attempt at appeasement, Ralph offers Jack the chance to be leader of his choirboys and choose what they will do; Jack chooses hunting and thus becomes the leader of the hunters. Hunting soon becomes an obsession for Jack, and eventually he paints his face and evolves into the chief savage on the island. He does not recognize Ralph's authority and he is consumed with a desire to kill.

It is interesting to wonder how things might have been different if Jack had won that election; however, given his history as an ineffective leader, it is likely the boys' descent into savagery might have happened even more quickly if Jack had been the leader.


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Lord of the Flies

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