How does Jack's character change from the beginning of Lord of the Flies to the end?

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Lord of the Flies, Jack's character morphs from that of civilized choir boy to savage hunter.  At the beginning of the novel, Golding emphasizes Jack's clothing as defining his role as a leader.  Jack Merridew's body "from throat to ankle" is concealed by a black cloak with a "long silver cross on the left breast;" his golden cap badge denotes him as being a leader among the other choir boys (21).  Jack's status as head choir boy gives him authority and power over the other boys:

"'I ought to be chief,' said Jack with simple arrogance, 'because I'm chapter chorister and head boy. I can sing C sharp'" (22).


As his time on the island lengthens, Jack desires to maintain the feeling of authority and power that he enjoyed from his head boy position and replaces that civilized role with the role of being the best hunter.  From the very first tribal meeting, Jack made it clear among the other boys that he wishes to be chief, and he uses his influence as the best hunter in an attempt to supplant the boys' chosen leader, Ralph.  The scene in chapter four in which Jack paints a mask onto his face reveals much about his transformation from choir boy to savage:

"He looked in astonishment, no longer at himself but an awesome stranger. [...] He began to dance and his laughter became a bloodthirsty snarling" (64).

Hunting and the creation of the mask serves as a catalyst for Jack's descent into savagery on the island.  He goes from being a boy who could not stand the idea of blood, to one who relishes the kill.  Furthermore, wearing the mask "liberated" Jack from "shame and self-consciousness" (64).  By the end of the novel, Jack behaves as a true blood-thirsty savage, willing to kill any of those who would challenge his power.

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Lord of the Flies

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