In William Golding's Lord of the Flies, what is the contrast between Jack's and Simon's responses to the bushes around them? What differs in their personalities? 

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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By the middle of the first chapter of William Golding's Lord of the Flies, Ralph, Jack, and Simon venture out to explore their surroundings in order to see if they truly are stranded on an island. It's in this chapter that Ralph and Jack have very different and very telling reactions to bushes they see.

The boys climb a mountain made of pink coral and find unidentifiable animal tracks, a boulder they push off a cliff into the jungle below the mountain, climb along the "lip of a circular hollow to the side of the mountain," see where their plane crashed, note that the island is nearly fully surrounded by a coral reef, and satisfy themselves that they are on an inhabited island. While descending the rocky mountain, they pass many kinds of vegetation, including bushes they stop to take a look at.

Simon, the character with the softer more romantic mindset, dubs the bushes "candle bushes" with "candle buds" because their leaves are the exact same waxen, dark evergreen leaves used to surround candles and decorate tables and mantles at Christmas time. Ralph, the most practical character notes, "You couldn't light them ... They just look like candles." In contrast, Jack takes out his hunting knife and "slashed at one," covering the boys with the scent of evergreen. Jack further notes, "We can't eat them. Come on."

This scene definitely tells a lot about the nature of all three boys. Simon is sensitive and caring enough to "stop and smell the roses" so to speak. He is sensitive enough to simply enjoy the sight of nature, regardless of if the plant has any use. In contrast, Ralph is always thinking about survival and usefulness. He knows that the boys need fire in order to survive; fire separates civilized mankind from his primitive ancestors.

In contrast to both Simon and Ralph, Jack proves he has a very violent nature by slashing at the bush. Simon would never slash at the bush because he enjoys the life of the bush too much, but Jack doesn't care about any life but his own. Further evidence of his inability to care for any life but his own is his contemptuous remark, "Green candles ... We can't eat them." All in all, Jack shows he has a far more primitive nature than Simon and Ralph have.

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