Two separate illustrations of an animal head and a fire on a mountain

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

Start Free Trial

How does the contrast between Jack's and Ralph's personalities reveal itself at the meeting?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

When read as an allegory, William Golding's Lord of the Flies's characters, Jack and Ralph, can be viewed as Cain and Abel on the Garden of Eden of an island.  For, Jack represents envy, brute force, and absolute rule, while Ralph exemplifies good behavior and concern for others, as well as beneficient rule that exerts nothing stronger than reasonable persuasion.  Ralph works with the others in building shelters and stoking the rescue fire; however, Jack, in contrast, desires absolute rule, and paints himself like a pagan, demanding service and obedience at the risk of physical punishment.

When, for instance, Ralph calls the meeting "put things straight," in a reasonable manner with the conch to be given to each speaker who is properly recognized, Jack rudely shouts, "Bullocks to the rules!" He cruelly accuses the littluns of being "useless lot of cry-babies!" telling them summarily that "there is no beast in the forest," whereas Ralph says that they should "talk about this fear and decide there's nothing in it."

When Simon attempts "to express mankind's essential illness," Jack follows Simon's efforts to explain with "the one crude expressive syllable," that refers to a bowel movement, mitigating the seriousness of Simon's intuitive knowledge as the littluns laugh with delight. Then, when Piggy attempts to restore rational order for Ralph, Jack shouts "Who cares?" telling him that he and the others hunt, and if there is a beast he and his hunters will kill it.  Clearly, Jack is concerned only with absolute power and brute force, much in contrast to the reasonable persuasion that Ralph seeks in his leadership, aspiring to make life as comfortable for the boys as he can rather than intimidating them physically as Jack does.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team