In Lord of the Flies, is having a chief the only choice for how the boys can organize themselves?    

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rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A number of possible ways to organize themselves could have been used by the boys in Lord of the Flies. The boys could have had a council, a triumvirate, or a partnership to act as leaders. They could also have had a buddy system. 

A council of five or seven of the oldest boys might have been a wise choice. Such an arrangement would have allowed various perspectives to be shared more fully, and it may have prevented the jealousies between Jack and Ralph from getting out of hand. By having an odd number of boys on the group, tie votes would have been impossible. Jack might have been held in check if four other boys with equal authority all tried to rein him in.

A triumvirate of Ralph, Piggy, and Jack might have been effective, but it probably would have ended up with Ralph and Piggy siding against Jack, which is what happened anyway. Jack would have had to be willing to accept Piggy as an equal, which he may not have done. 

A partnership would mimic a parenting situation. If Ralph and Jack had been co-chiefs, some of the jealousy could possibly have been avoided, and Jack may have been more vested in the success of the society. However, a father and mother generally have love for one another that allows a level of give and take in the relationship, resulting in a softening of the harsher partner and a strengthening of the milder partner. Since Ralph and Jack did not have a commitment to or love for each other, partnership rule could have resulted in stalemates and competition, which happened anyway.

A buddy system could have been put in place no matter what the leadership strategy was. Instead of assigning Piggy the task of cataloging all the littluns himself, each older boy could have been assigned a younger boy to mentor and keep track of. Having a younger boy for whom to act as a role model may have resulted in many of the boys "stepping up" to take responsibility on the island in a personal way--rather that just being part of the "hunters" group, for instance. The buddy system may have prevented the loss of life of the boy with the mulberry birthmark in the first fire. The organization the boys put in place, with its top-down structure, did not place enough emphasis on the emotional and social development of the boys and created a selfish mindset where most boys only thought of their own needs and desires. Establishing a buddy system from the beginning may have resulted in a different outcome for the boys. 

oblackmon | Student

Having a chief is the only way the boys think they can organize themselves on the island, but a different groups of people may have come up with a better system. With this group of children in particular, each of the main boys (Ralph, Jack, Simon, Piggy) all represent a character archetype, and it's important that the more grounded and logical characters--Piggy and Simon--are the ones who typically pull for some type of order because they are modeling the rules they think they know to be best. ("Piggy spoke timidly. 'That’s why Ralph made a meeting. So as we can decide what to do.'" LOTF Ch. 1) 

On the island, part of the boys' inability to maintain a society and establish order is because they are only children. They "know" that rules and having a leader is good and right because that is what the world in which they grew instilled in them:

"[Ralph] lifted the conch. 'Seems to me we ought to have a chief to decide things.'”

However, readers must remember the boys are still children, and in these high-pressure conditions (or relaxing conditions, if you're a littlun who only swims and eats fruit), the boys fail to keep organization. Perhaps with a different group of children or with a different age group, the boys could have come up with another manageable system for organization, such as with a Parliament or independently in different tribes. Still, the chief mindset prevails, and in this set of conditions, having a clear leader ("The Chief") is the only successful system for the boys.

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Lord of the Flies

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