“We’ve got to have rules and obey them. After all, we’re not savages. We’re English, and the English are best at everything.” (42) What does this quote from Lord of The Flies reveal about...

“We’ve got to have rules and obey them. After all, we’re not savages. We’re English, and the English are best at everything.” (42)

What does this quote from Lord of The Flies reveal about Jack's character in terms of the theme or message?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Lord of The Flies, there is a struggle for control between Ralph and Jack. Jack feels that, because he is "chapter chorister and head boy" he should be the leader but, as Ralph has called the boys together using the conch, "the trumpet-thing", and the boys are suitably impressed, Ralph is designated as leader. Jack is, however, assigned to lead the choir, his "hunters." The boys do rally together to get the fire going to the point of exhaustion and are annoyed when their efforts lead to an ineffective "beard of flame."

Despite not being leader, Jack does agree with Ralph about managing the fire and that there should be more rules and offers to be responsible for the fire. At this stage of the story, this quote reveals Jack's manipulative intent as he wants to be involved in leadership and he has seen an opportunity to get control of something very important. He also indicates that more is expected of them all, being "English" although he has previously told Piggy to "shut up," thus indicating his contempt for the authority of the conch which "doesn't count on top of the mountain," he states; thus, contradicting himself. Piggy, who has insight that the others lack, is, significantly, afraid of Jack.

The theme of appearance versus reality is prominent here as Jack's intentions are self-serving but the others see him as being co-operative at this stage. The relevance of this quote will become significant later when Jack shows his true character which is morally lacking and totally savage, revealing the irony in his words. The good versus evil theme will also resonate back to these words.    

davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'd like to suggest that the character of Jack symbolizes a mentality widely shared among the British upper classes at that time in relation to other civilizations. Jack unthinkingly expresses a certain jingoistic arrogance; the English are "civilized" whereas supposedly lesser races and cultures are "savage" and "backward." The boys on the island are members of the social elite and, as such, will one day be expected to form the governing class of their country. That being the case, they are different from the common herd and must live up to the standards of their class, race, and nationality, even when stranded on a remote desert island.

Jack's ultimate descent into savagery, however, exposes the hollowness of his self-image and the class he represents. His insistence on maintaining and obeying rules is little more than a sham. He simply wants to use the prevailing English standards and norms as a means to exploitation and control. Here we see a neat parallel with the way in which the British Empire was run. Colonial peoples were subjected to the often far from benign rule of the British, who nonetheless carried out their imperialist policies under the veneer of the rule of law.

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Lord of the Flies

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