Lord of the Flies Questions and Answers
by William Golding

Lord of the Flies book cover
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“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?

This quote demonstrates that Jack believes that the English are "civilized," thus making the boys' descent into chaos more impactful. Further, this quote shows Jack attempting to regain control over the boys, illustrating his need to be an authority figure.

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In chapter two, the boys are on the top of the mountain when Ralph declares that they should designate people to maintain the signal fire and states that there should be more rules. Ralph is attempting to establish a civil society, and Jack responds by saying,

I agree with Ralph. 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. (Golding, 58)

Jack's comment underscores Golding's primary theme regarding civilization vs. savagery. Jack is under the impression that the boys are civil because they are English. Jack was taught that England is superior to other nations and his homeland is primarily responsible for spreading civilization throughout the world.

As an English man, Golding challenged this popular, prejudiced view regarding civility and superiority by illustrating the boys' descent into savagery. As the novel progresses, the boys begin to revert back to their primitive, savage nature and completely reject civilization. By depicting a group of English boys as ruthless, barbaric, and savage, Golding is commenting on mankind's inherent wickedness and suggesting that civilization is simply a thin veneer.

Jack's comment regarding the English being the best at everything also underscores the theme of power and authority. Jack is quick to agree with Ralph and believes that he is a superior leader. As the novel progresses, Jack attempts to usurp power and ends up establishing his own tribe of savages on the opposite end of the island, where he rules as a brutal tyrant.

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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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...

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Pauline Sheehan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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