When do the boys definitively split into two hostile groups in Lord of the Flies?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The boys in Lord of the Flies have always been split into two groups, joined in an uneasy alliance. Although Ralph is the overall leader, Jack remains in charge of the choirboys, who form a separate detachment of "hunters" under his command. It is always obvious that Jack is unwilling to accept Ralph's authority and that the choir will follow him when he decides to revolt. This moment comes in chapter 8. At first, it appears that Jack is on his own:

"Who thinks Ralph oughtn't to be chief?"

He looked expectantly at the boys ranged round, who had frozen. Under the palms there was deadly silence.

It is a testament to Ralph's charisma and leadership abilities that no one wants to follow Jack in his open rebellion. When Jack leaves, it appears that he does so alone. The definitive split, however, occurs very soon after this. The reader, along with Ralph and Piggy, only discovers it after it has happened:

Ralph dropped down in the sand.

"We'll have to make a new list of who's to look after the fire."

"If you can find 'em."

He looked round. Then for the first time he saw how few biguns there were and understood why the work had been so hard.

"Where's Maurice?"

Piggy wiped his glass again. "I expect . . . no, he wouldn't go into the forest by himself, would he?"

Ralph and Piggy quickly realize how many of the group have left to join Jack. Golding could not have described the split directly. The fact that none of Jack's followers were prepared to defy Ralph openly meant that their departure had to be surreptitious. Within a few paragraphs, however, we see Jack addressing his troops, sole leader of his own tribe at last and "looking brilliantly happy."

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

It's not long after Jack tries to take over from Ralph that the boys split up into two different factions. Jack wants to be elected as leader of the boys, but the boys are not prepared to ditch Ralph. Jack storms off in a huff, hurt and humiliated by this very public act of rejection.

Ironically, it is at his lowest point that Jack achieves salvation. Although he's proved to be pretty useless when it comes to formal democracy, he still has the charisma to be a leader, albeit a different kind of leader than Ralph. The other boys won't vote for him as leader, but they will still join his gang, accepting him as their dictator. It's as if the other boys have denied Jack the prize of elected leader in order to give him the much bigger prize of dictator.

Those who refused to vote against Ralph have no compunction in heading off to the mountain to join Jack's merry band of thugs. Once the boys split into two groups, it's the beginning of the end for rule-based order and democracy on the island. From here on in it's a fight to the death: a war of all against all, red in tooth and claw.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In chapter 8, Jack gets offended after Ralph mentions that his hunters are no match for the beast. Jack then grabs the conch and calls an assembly. During the assembly, Jack attempts to usurp power by holding a vote to determine if the majority of the boys still want Ralph to be their leader. However, Jack's plan backfires when none of the boys raise their hands to vote for Ralph's removal. Jack begins to cry and says,

"I'm not going to be a part of Ralph's lot . . . I'm going off by myself. He can catch his own pigs. Anyone who wants to hunt when I do can come too." (Golding, 99)

Jack then runs into the forest and travels to the opposite end of the island. Shortly after Jack's departure, Ralph and the boys begin to collect wood to start a new signal fire on the platform. When the boys are finished collecting wood, Ralph notices that the majority of the group is missing. Piggy then says,

"I expect they've gone. I expect they won't play either . . . I seen them stealing off when we was gathering wood. They went that way. The same way as he went himself." (102)

It is at this moment when the boys split into two hostile groups. Shortly after forming his own tribe, Jack and his savages brutally murder a sow and steal a burning branch from Ralph's fire. He then allows Ralph and his followers to dine with them in the next chapter, but it is only an attempt to get them to join his tribe.  

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The split begins in the first chapter when Jack determines, at the end of the chapter, that the next time he encounters a pig, he will not hesitate to kill it, or even before that, with the first election.  But by chapter 9 and the killing of Simon, the split is complete.  Jack has appointed himself the Chief of his group and he runs the group with an iron fist.  Jack asks who will come join his group.  He promises them food, protection from the beast, and fun - the three things the boys want most.  He has all but a few littluns, Sam and Eric, Piggy, and Ralph.  Jack's style of command is very different from Ralph's.  Jack rules with complete authority.  He gives commands whereas Ralph tried to appeal to reason in order to get cooperation.  Jack exerts his authority over the boys with threats of punishment for any perception of disobedience. To prove his authority, he beats one child - Wilfred - for no reason at all.  Ralph would never do that because it lacks reason.  By the beginning of chapter 10, the boys are completely divided and Jack's side is completely savage. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

It is in Chapter 4, when the boys miss a chance for rescue, that the two groups' differences emerge most definitively. Jack and his hunters chase and kill a pig, and in the process, let the signal fire go out. Ralph's group is livid at this oversight, because they notice a boat out in the ocean that could have been their chance for rescue.

The standoff between the two groups that occurs afterwards shows the fundamental differences between each group's values. Jack's group prioritizes power and the hunt, while Ralph's group prioritizes order and the importance of rescue. This difference between them will have disasterous consequences.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial