How are the weak characters dependent upon the major characters in Lord of the Flies?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

From the beginning of Golding's Lord of the Flies, which allegorically serves as a type of Eden, the boys are positioned amidst the tension of the good/evil opposing forces of Ralph/Piggy and Jack/Roger. Serving as gauges of the older boys' leadership skills and psychological prowess, the littl'uns move from working for Ralph in building the shelters to joining Jack as hunters. The boys also act as measures of the leaders' moral positions as the reader discerns whether an older boy is kind or cruel based upon how he treats the littl'uns.

One example of how the older boys' moral position is indicated by his treatment of the littl'uns is the early indication of the sadism of Roger, who throws stones at little Henry who sits seaside playing with the little sandcrabs.  Similarly, Ralph's lack of leadership skills is indicated by his inability to get the boys to recognize the importance of the conch, representative of the order of civilization.  Losing his influence over the boys, Ralph moves from insisting that they build shelters and the rescue fire to frustration as he shouts "Smoke" as something "obscures his idea" in Chapter Six. He is ineffective because the boys climbing the mountain to find the beast are waylaid in their excitement of exploration and rolling rocks. 

Eventually, Ralph and Piggy, who is often ridiculed and has his glasses stolen, lose their leadership positions to the overpowering force of Jack.  Using the beast as a unifying force, Jack controls the boys through fear and violence.  He sets up the beast as a sort of idol, symbolized by the pig's head upon the stake, which also gives reality to the boys' nightmares of a beast.  With ritual-like ceremonies in which the boys dance around a pretended "beast" and strike at him, Jack establishes his cult.  And, the sadistic Roger controls this cult through intimidation and beatings.  Thus, the boys who must depend upon Jack for food are swayed through the violence and Satanic-type worship away from the last vestiges of civilization that they may possess.

Much like those under the influence of political leaders, the weaker boys are swayed by the moral forces of the older and stronger boys.  On Golding's allegorical island these moral forces are made distinct as Ralph/Piggy represent conditioned civilization and goodness while Jack/Roger represent anarchy and chaos and the evil present inherently in man.

mahmood786 | Student
the novel is actually about: •Civilization vs. Savagery •Good vs. Evil •Weak vs. Strong •Morality vs. Immorality •Democracy vs. Totalitarianism •Order vs. Chaos •Law vs. Anarchy •Reason vs. Impulse

Character’s Representations:

Piggy (and glasses)

Clear-sightedness, intelligence. Their state represents the status of    social order.

Ralph, The Conch

Democracy, Order


Pure Goodness, "Christ Figure"


Evil, Satan


Savagery, Anarchy

The Island

A microcosm representing the world

The "Scar"

Man's destruction, destructive forces

The Beast

The evil residing within everyone, the dark side of human nature.

Lord of the Flies

The Devil, great danger or evil


Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a novel that

represents society and it's components in a tale about a

children stranded on an island. Of the group there are two

who want to lead the boys for the duration of their stay, one

of which is Jack Merridew. Although he doesn't have any

power at the beginning of the novel, he took every chance

he had to try to take the position of chief which he eventually

got. He ruled with an iron fist, allowing no one to question

him or his leadership. Jack represented the wanting for a

single, all powerful leader to guide the followers of society

using any means he feels necessary.

Jack was a very power hungry young boy. He liked to be in

command of things and when he wasn't, he tried to put

himself into that position. This desire for power was shown

throughout the novel, as was the fact that he loved attention

that accompanied it. He loved to be the centre of attention

and would do anything to boost himself above other people.

To make him more evil, he was not able to conceal any of

these characteristics, he had to let them loose.

Upon the arrival of the boys to the island Jack was put in the

middle of a power struggle. Although the conflict was brief,

there was still a very obvious confrontation between Jack

and Ralph.

Read the study guide:
Lord of the Flies

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