How does William Golding use language and structure to reveal Jack at the start of the novel, Lord of the Flies?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

William Golding employs figurative language and a rather long descriptive paragraph to create an image of Jack that conjures the revelation of an antagonistic and confrontational character. 

In Chapter One after the emergence of Ralph and Piggy from the wreckage of the plane, the two boys revel in the beauty of the area in which they find themselves, climbing onto tree trunks, shedding their clothes and swimming in the lagoon, and, then, discovering a large conch that Piggy takes and demonstrates its use as a horn. After Ralph blows the conch, "signs of life" appear. As the boys file into the area, Piggy takes their names. Then, Ralph first notices "something dark was fumbling along."

In metaphoric terms, then, the choir led by Jack is compared to "a creature." Further, this creature steps "from mirage onto clear sand" and Ralph and the others who look see that the visual imagery of "the darkness was not all shadow"; instead, clothing becomes apparent. At this point "the creature" begins to assume individual forms as a group of boys, marching in parallel lines and dressed in "strangely eccentric clothing" that moves toward Ralph and Piggy and the smaller boys who have also arrived. With tactile and visual imagery, Golding further describes the boys:

The heat of the tropics, the descent, the search for food, and now this sweaty march along the blazing beach had given them the complexions of newly washed plums.

Out of this group emerges the boy who leads them, Jack, with his "cloak flying." He asks for the "man with the trumpet" and is told by Ralph that there is only he. Foreshadowing the future conflicts of the two boys, Golding writes of Jack, "What he saw of the fair-haired boy...did not seem to satisfy him. He turned quickly, his black cloak circling."

With a second mention of this black cloak swirling about him, Golding subtly suggests the stock character of villain; added to this, Jack is "tall, thin, and bony"--skeletal--and his face is "crumpled and freckled and ugly without silliness." This language certainly reveals that Jack will play the role of antagonist in Golding's narrative.

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Lord of the Flies

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