In Lord of The Flies, what was the power over others that Ralph and Jack had?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Lord of the Flies, Ralph is the elected leader, "Chief," of the boys after they are stranded without any "grown ups" on a desolate island. Ralph, with Piggy's help, tries to think about the basic necessities the boys might need and sets about building shelters and preparing a signal fire, to assist with their ultimate rescue. Fortunately, he has the conch which signifies democracy, or at least a call to order and, at first, all the boy's respect the authority and right to speak of the person holding the conch.

Jack feels he should be the leader as "I'm chapter chorister and head boy. I can sing Csharp" (ch 1) but he is outvoted due to the fact that the boys have a powerful image of Ralph "with the trumpet-thing." (ch 1) Ralph and Jack have a cautious respect for each other and the choir does "belong" to Jack who reluctantly accepts that the choir can be "hunters." 

The boys become lazy in the absence of any adult supervision, the fire is neglected and they become obsessed with "the beast." Ralph even becomes irritated with Piggy and his ideas and inventions. He even considers giving up his position as leader but is persuaded by Piggy to do his best to restore some form of order. He becomes less and less effective.  

Jack gets more and more excited at his chance to hunt and "kill the beast" and, although initially he is unable to kill a pig, he becomes more savage as time passes. Jack's "tribe" get caught up in Jack's leadership as, previously, the boys would have "played" games like this whereas now it is real but the consequences seem to escape them. They get to "paint" their faces, they get to hunt and they get to eat meat - even Piggy longs for some meat!

Being around Jack, who does not care for good order or "what grown ups" think instills fear - mainly concerning the beast - which allows his form of leadership to reduce the boys to savages. "Power lay in the brown swell of his forearms: authority sat on his shoulder," (ch 9) to the point of killing Simon in their stupor. 

Ralph laughs when Piggy suggests he try again to restore order as he is still "Chief." Ralph senses that it is too late and does not know what to do. The power he initially had, his "stillness ....that marked him out" (ch 1) and his confidence is gone, in the desperate circumstances and ultimately, he will be powerless to save his friend, Piggy and will weep "for the end of innocence."(ch 12)

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Lord of the Flies

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