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

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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What do Ralph and Jack disagree about in Chapter 3 of Lord of the Flies?

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Ralph and Jack disagree about what their top priority should be in chapter three of Lord of the Flies. While Ralph is focused on building shelter for the boys, Jack is obsessed with the idea of successfully hunting a pig.

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Ralph and Jack disagree about the importance of building shelters and maintaining a signal fire compared to spending the majority of their time hunting pigs throughout the island. Ralph champions civilization and understands the importance of building shelters. Unlike Jack, Ralph is considerate and knows that shelters will provide the littluns with much-needed security to ease their minds when it gets dark. The littluns fear the mysterious beast and struggle sleeping at night. Ralph also realizes that it is only a matter of time before it storms, and the shelters will protect them from the elements.

Ralph spends all day building the shelters along with Simon, who is the only boy willing to help him. Ralph is frustrated because most of the boys prefer to play instead of work, and the remaining shelters are unstable. Jack has opposite priorities and believes that hunting is the most important activity. Jack is gradually succumbing to his primitive instincts. Jack has an insatiable desire to kill and practices tracking pigs by studying the forest floor. He has no interest in helping Ralph build shelters and dedicates his time to hunting.

Towards the end of the chapter, Ralph and Jack’s conversation shifts to the importance of the signal fire. Ralph argues that the signal fire is their best chance of being rescued and reminds Jack of the hunters’ main responsibility. While Ralph argues on behalf of civilization, Jack represents anarchy and they remain divided on important issues. At the end of their argument, the issues regarding the shelters, the signal fire, and importance of providing meat for the group remain unresolved.

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The crux of the disagreement between Ralph and Jack comes down to a matter of priorities. When Jack arrives at the scene where Ralph and Simon are hard at work trying to make shelter, Ralph is already disgruntled that none of the other boys are bothering to help. While Ralph clearly prioritizes the building of shelter, Jack seems to think that the need for food is more important. It is easy to argue, however, that Jack is focused on hunting due to the “compulsion to track down and kill” that has consumed him rather than the desire to help anybody in any way. Ralph is dissatisfied with Jack’s failure to have produced any meat from his hunting trip and implies that his time would be better spent helping with the shelter project.

The argument intensifies, and “the antagonism [becomes] audible” when Jack swears that he will successfully kill a pig during his next hunt. Remaining more level-headed, Ralph simply reminds Jack again of the need for shelter. He then begins to explain the importance of shelter to Jack, but it becomes apparent that Jack has a single-minded obsession with hunting. In fact, Jack prioritizes a successful hunt over rescue.

Ralph’s antagonism towards Jack grows stronger yet when Jack suddenly shouts, leading Ralph to think he has seen a ship, when in fact Jack has merely had an epiphany as to where he thinks the pigs might be. This once again showcases his fixation on hunting pigs, which is the source of his conflict with Ralph, who is focused on the need for shelter.

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In Chapter 3, Ralph laments about the condition of the shelters that he and Simon have been building. Only one of the shelters is sturdy while the other two are shaky and in ruin. Ralph tells Jack that the other boys are off bathing, eating, and playing. Jack explains to Ralph that the boys need meat, and Ralph disagrees by arguing that shelter is more important. Ralph points out that the shelters are important because they serve as a protective home for the littluns who fear the beast. Jack even comments that when he is hunting, he feels as if something is hunting him. Ralph comments, "The best thing we can do is get ourselves rescued." (Golding 53) He then says, "So long as your hunters remember the fire---." Jack ignores Ralph's comment about the fire because he is thinking about ways to disguise himself while hunting. Jack runs off to the other side of the island in hopes of tracking down pigs.

Throughout the chapter, Ralph and Jack's opposite priorities are depicted. Ralph is concerned with the shelters and signal fire, which are essential for survival and rescue, while Jack is only concerned about hunting. Ralph is becoming frustrated by Jack's obsession with hunting and lack of assistance. Ralph is beginning to experience how difficult it is to be the leader, and a schism between the two characters is imminent.

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Jack and Ralph disagree over leadership styles and the priorities of what must be done on the island.  Ralph feels that building the shelters should be the group's biggest priority; he worries about the littluns who do not sleep well at night and the possibility of more bad weather.   Most of Ralph's frustrations stem from not having enough help from the other older boys on the shelters.  They all agreed in the meeting that it was a good idea, but the actual implementation has been more challenging.

When Ralph asks Jack to help with the shelters, Jack refuses, saying that meat and hunting is more important to the tribe.  After the boys debate that their island might not be a "good island," the boys come to an understanding that they both want different things, but the issue remains unresolved as to which is more important.

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