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

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding
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On page 79 of Lord of the Flies, it says, "Against this weapon, so indefinable and so effective, Jack was powerless and raged without knowing why." What was Ralph's "weapon"? Why did it have the effect it did on Jack?

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In the fourth chapter of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, tensions rise between the two authority figures on the island, Ralph and Jack.

Ralph is fair-minded and represents civility, organization, and forethought. He prioritizes the greater good of everyone on the island. Jack represents savagery, barbarism, and impulsivity. He gives in to his own selfish desires, often at the expense of others.

Jack has resented Ralph since he was elected leader, and the power struggle between the two escalates when Jack fails to maintain the signal fire. Ralph is enraged by Jack’s negligence and the ensuing missed opportunity for rescue.

After terrorizing Piggy, Jack insincerely apologizes to Ralph for letting the fire die. Jack is not truly sorry. His apology is merely a political tactic to win the favor of the boys. Ralph sees right through Jack’s pretense and calmly calls him out on his behavior: “That was a dirty trick.”

Jack antagonizes Ralph, but Ralph stands his ground, both literally and figuratively. Ralph refuses to move from the pile of ash and does not dignify any of Jack’s remarks with responses, verbal or otherwise. Ultimately, Jack and his boys have no choice but to build the fire elsewhere.

Ralph’s passive resistance is his weapon, and he wields it masterfully. He does not indulge Jack’s immature behavior. He makes Jack look foolish and powerless in front of the other boys. His refusal to stoop to Jack’s levels of violence and immaturity make it impossible for Jack to react, physically or verbally, without further embarrassing himself.

Jack’s resentment toward Ralph escalates after this incident. Ralph’s triumph is a blow to Jack’s ego as well as a triumph for civility over savagery. Jack is egotistical and enjoys controlling others. He resents Ralph’s leadership and the respect he inspires. Jack gains control of others through cruelty, violence, and other fear-inducing methods. Contrastingly, Ralph gains and maintains control of the boys using passive, nonviolent methods. Ralph represents everything Jack is against: fairness, justice, and civility. In Jack’s view, Ralph is a threat to his way of life and the principles by which he lives.

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