Lord of the Flies Questions and Answers
by William Golding

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What does the reader learn about Jack when he slashed the green candle buds in William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies?

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Julianne Hansen, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The boys are exploring the island at the end of the first chapter when they begin scrambling down a rocky slope. They pause to note the curious bushes that grow here, and Simon says they look like candles. Native to the island, unlike the boys, the bushes seem to cower from the intrusion of humanity:

The bushes were dark evergreen and aromatic and the many buds were waxen green and folded up against the light.

Jack "slashes" at one with a knife and then notes that the boys can't eat them.

The reader learns two things about Jack here. First, he is solely focused on obtaining things from the island for human consumption, no matter the cost. Even though the bushes are not consumable, he still feels the need to destroy them. This quest for destruction will intensify throughout the novel.

The flowers also look like candles, which are typically used to provide light. Light is equated with knowledge and goodness, and Jack lashes out to destroy this. Symbolically, he therefore seeks to live in darkness, eliminating all sources of knowledge and goodness from the island. Again, this theme will continue to develop as the plot progresses.

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Toward the end of chapter one, Jack, Ralph, and Simon are heading back to the platform after exploring the island when they come across mysterious flowers that resemble candle buds. As the boys approach the candle buds, Jack slashes at one of them with his knife and contemptuously remarks that they could not eat them. This gesture may initially seem insignificant, but it happens to foreshadow Jack's affinity for violence, contempt for nature, and obsession with hunting.

Unlike Ralph, who mentions that they could not light the candle buds, Jack immediately thinks about eating them. Their statements foreshadow their different ideologies regarding their time spent on the uninhabited tropical island. Throughout the story, Ralph will remain focused on lighting the signal fire in hopes of being rescued, while Jack will only concern himself with hunting the wild pigs. Overall, Jack's violent gesture and comment regarding the candle buds reveal that he has a propensity for violence and is primarily concerned with feeding himself. These character traits foreshadow Jack's bloodthirsty personality and obsession with hunting pigs.

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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What we learn from this episode is that Jack has no respect for any living thing. Whether it's a green candle bud or a pig or another boy, he has no real connection to anything vital. Where someone like Simon might see something beautiful to be cherished, venerated, and valued for itself, Jack treats this feature of the natural world as an object that gets in his way.

Again, the parallels with how he treats the other boys are disturbing, to say the least. Jack wants absolute power and is prepared to remove anyone who stands in his path. He has no more compunction about wiping out anyone who gets in his way than he has in slashing away at green candle buds.

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The reader learns that Jack has a curious, but also destructive side to him when he slashes the green candle buds.  Unlike Simon, who feels a connection to nature and views the candle buds reverently, Jack has no such connection.  He views nature as a commodity to be controlled and used:

"Green candles," said Jack contempuously. "We can't eat them.  Come on" (30).

Shown here, Jack's contempt for nature and living things seems a small concern, but his act with the knife and the quickness with which he discounts the value of the green candle buds foreshadows that Jack would be equally quick to use the knife on something he could eat.  Interestingly enough, Jack catches a piglet only a page later in the chapter and is unable to kill it the way he did the candle bud.  The boys all understand "very well why he hadn't: because of the enormity of the knife descending and cutting into living flesh; because of the unbearable blood" (31). 

Jack's performance with the candle bud is his first act of destruction on the island, quick and deadly, foreshadowing his eventual descent into a savage hunter.

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