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

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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How are Jack, Ralph, Piggy, and Simon archetypal characters in Lord of the Flies?

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An archetype is a character that is found in ancient and modern stories.

Hero Ralph, the first one seen, changes most. The conch gives him special powers.

But there was a stillness about Ralph as he sat that marked him out: ... yet most powerfully, there was the conch. (ch 1)

Ralph is described as “set apart” and he is chosen as a leader because he is the “being that had blown” the conch. 

Ralph is given a leadership role. He is not quite like the others and the others look up to him because of the conch.

Ralph is the first one found.  He cries when he sees his rescuers, because he realizes he will never be the same after the savagery he witnessed on the island. 

His voice rose under the black smoke before the burning wreckage of the island; and infected by that emotion, the other little boys began to shake and sob too. (ch 10)

Ralph, who represents civilization, mourns the loss of his innocence.  The others are still following his lead. 

Villain Jack is the villain, or enemy of progress.  Jack represents savagery.  Like most villains, he wants power for power’s sake.

“We’ll have rules!” he cried excitedly. “Lots of rules! Then when anyone breaks ’em–” (ch 2)

He is more interested in rules so he can make people do things he wants and punishments so he can be violent.  He does not want to maintain order.  Consider Jack’s reaction to the blood on his hands.

He noticed blood on his hands and grimaced distastefully, looked for something on which to clean them, then wiped them on his shorts and laughed. (ch 4)

There is an initial attempt to be civilized and clean the blood off, but in the end Jack’s maniacal laughter stands out.  He is brutal with his followers.  He is the one who starts the bloodlust with the hunters that leads to Simon and Piggy’s death.   Jack represents the breakdown of society.

Oracle Simon is the oracle or wise one.  He is not one of the group, but rather separate.  He goes off on his own and thinks a lot, but he does not often share what he thinks and usually is not listened to when he does.

The first link Simon does is faint.  A choir member described as “vivid” (ch 2), he makes wise suggestions and serves as an arbiter, such as suggesting that Piggy did help make the fire because they used his glasses.  Simon also reminds everyone about the beastie.  Simon’s “always about” and always helpful.  He sees what no one else does, but he is also timid and quiet.

Simon looked now, from Ralph to Jack, as he had looked from Ralph to the horizon, and what he saw seemed to make him afraid. (ch 4)

Simon is disturbed by the turn in the boys.  He becomes reflective, obsessing over the Lord of the Flies.  In the end, he is killed because they think he is the beast.

Guide  Piggy is the intelligent one. He is Ralph’s guide, but Ralph does not usually give him credit, he does listen to him.  

“Nobody knows where we are …Perhaps they knew where we was going to; and perhaps not.” (ch 2)

Piggy warns Ralph there’s “going to be trouble” at Jack's party. Simon is killed, then Piggy.  This time they know it’s him this time and not the beast. 

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