How does Jack Merridew's hair symbolize his descent from purity to savagery in Lord of the Flies?

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The boys' hair and clothing symbolically represent remnants of civilization and serve as a gauge of their civility as the novel progresses. Initially, the boys' hair is relatively short and trimmed to its normal length when they first crash-land on the uninhabited tropical island. As the novel progresses, the boys...

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The boys' hair and clothing symbolically represent remnants of civilization and serve as a gauge of their civility as the novel progresses. Initially, the boys' hair is relatively short and trimmed to its normal length when they first crash-land on the uninhabited tropical island. As the novel progresses, the boys gradually descend into savagery, and their hair and lack of clothing reflect their diminishing civility. Jack is easily identified by his red hair, which is underneath his black cap at the beginning of the story.

As the story progresses, Jack's hair becomes much longer and dirtier. His identifiable black cap becomes worn, and he begins to paint his face like a savage. By chapter four, Jack and his hunters have already gradually become more savage and refuse to wear their clothes. Golding writes, "Some of the boys wore black caps but otherwise they were almost naked" (98). Golding then provides a description of Jack's hair by writing,

Jack transferred the knife to his left hand and smudged blood over his forehead as he pushed down the plastered hair (100).

While Jack's hair continues to grow and becomes unkempt as he descends further into savagery, Golding focuses more attention on Ralph's hair. Ralph is the elected leader of the group, and there are numerous scenes that depict Ralph pushing his hair out of his eyes and complaining about its length. Jack's red hair becomes one of his only identifiable physical traits by the end of the novel, because he looks completely different from when he first landed on the island.

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When analyzing Jack's hair as a symbol, I suggest that you also consider doing so in reference to the black cap as well:

"Inside the floating cloak he was tall, thin, and bony; and his hair was red beneath the black cap" (20).

When Golding first introduces Jack, the important detail about his hair is that is under the black cap.  The black cap, a visual symbol of his connection to the choir, and through it, civilization, keeps Jack's hair neat and controlled; his hair is as orderly as his role as head choir boy.  In the beginning, Jack's neatly defined hair suggests that he is a follower of the rules.

Later, as the novel progresses, and Jack starts wearing the painted mask for hunting, his red hair becomes one of his only identifiable characteristics.  He has traded the black choir cloak for a frightening mask, and his once neat hair is also loose and wild, reflecting his transition from model choir boy to desperate savage.

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