How is the theme of leadership developed in Lord of the Flies? (I need the answer for a speech that's not longer than 2 minutes... thanks!)

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The motif of leadership is prevalent throughout the narrative of Lord of the Flies:

  • First of all, Ralph appears after the crash. He appears to be "an anointed one": golden body and bright, excited eyes. When Piggy finds the conch, Ralph blows it with authority and other boys appear.
  • However, one of the boys who appears possesses a "uniformed superiority": Jack, thin and bony and red-haired, the head of the choir who commands several cloaked boys and challenges Ralph for the position of chief.
  • At this point the boy who looks most like a chief--"Him with the shell"--is elected. He assumes the responsibility of building the shelters and the rescue fire. Thus, he represents the rule of civilization.
  • Later, however, he falls short as the fire goes out of control and burns part of the island. Also, the hunters steal the fire, shifting the thrust of power. It is only when Piggy suggests that the fire be built on shore that order is restored.
  • Disappointed that he has lost the election as chief, Jack assumes the leadership of the hunters and enlists the sadistic Roger who undermines Ralph's authority and tries to intimidate those who favor order and preying on the weaker boys such as little Henry at the beach.
  • As time passes, Jack paints his face and the other hunters become less and less civilized, shedding the last vestiges of society along with their clothes. Like primitive people that imagine a beast that threatens them, the leaders set out to find this beast that really lies within them.
  • Ritualistic and sadistic ceremonies take place after a pig is killed. Even Ralph feels himself swayed toward the atavistic behavior of others as he watches the boys surround another and eventually kill him.
  • After the murder of Simon "by the evil that men do," Piggy and rationality are killed when Roger lofts a huge boulder upon Piggy. Ralph himself becomes the target of savagery as the painted faces and nearly naked hunters pursue him to the edge of the island before he is rescued.

As can be determined, there is a constant tension between Ralph's leadership and Piggy's support and Jack and the hunters. While Ralph's leadership strives to uphold the rules of British civilization, by having a rescue fire and rules and meetings,  Jack's leadership is one that is much more atavistic: his is a rule of force and might. He and his hunters steal the fire; they try to murder the beast. The primitive forces of cruelty to the enemy--Simon is beaten in the ritual initiation of killing a pig and Roger hurls a granite boulder onto Piggy, sending him spiraling out to sea awash in blood--eventually lead to the destruction of the forest in their sadistic efforts to kill Ralph, who is saved only by the arrival of the naval officer, an authority of the adult world.

johnskbm | Student

In this novel, one would suspect that the author is trying to show human nature, and what causes humans to have a leader. It seems that the biggest thing that draws us to have leadership is the fear of the unknown. When we are scared or unsure of our circumstances, we want to put all our trust into something that can save us. 

Also we struggle with the ability to make decisions on our own. As humans we constantly battle with ourselves, teeter-tottering between good and bad ideas. We fight with ourselves just to figure out what is right and what is wrong. 

In the novel we watch as these young boys struggle to decide how to choose a leader. There is a battle between good and evil, but also between their past lives and their current reality. 

The boys lose touch with societal norms, and become savage beings. They return to what life would be like with man fighting for each one's self. Someone needs to lead the boys because they no longer know what is good and just, and what is wrong. 

However, the more time they spend away from society...the more they choose to follow a leader who is not the best choice, and no longer has a connection to the "real" world. 

thewanderlust878 | Student

I definitely think that leadership is developed throughout the entire novel, and it reflects in each character. Obviously with Ralph you can see him develop and try to do what is best for everyone in the group. You also see leadership in Jack, who is put in charge of the hunting crew and learns quickly how to kill, skin, and cook food for the group to survive. 

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Lord of the Flies

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