In "Lord of the Flies", why does Jack hesitate at his first opportunity to kill a pig?

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robertwilliam's profile pic

robertwilliam | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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This is the bit from the novel you need, from the end of the first chapter:

Jack drew his knife again with a flourish. He raised his arm in the air. There came a pause, a hiatus, the pig continued to scream and the creepers to jerk, and the blade continued to flash at the end of a bony arm. The pause was only long enough for them to understand what an enormity the downward stroke would be. Then the piglet tore loose from the creepers and scurried into the undergrowth. They were left looking at each other and the place of terror. Jack’s face was white under the freckles....

“Why didn’t you—?”

They knew very well why he hadn’t: because of the enormity of the knife descending and cutting into living flesh; because of the unbearable blood.

“I was going to,” said Jack.

Jack pauses because he's just a boy, he's never killed anything before, and the actual act of cutting into a live creature with a knife was just too much for him. The blood which followed would be "unbearable". So Jack hesitates, and the pig escapes.

It's a clear sign from Golding that Jack doesn't start off as a monster. He can't kill a pig, never mind Pig-gy. But, as the novel continues, Jack's trajectory moves steadily toward murder and brutality.

luannw's profile pic

luannw | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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At the end of chapter one, when Jack, Ralph, and Simon are exploring the island on which the boys have just crash landed, Jack encounters a piglet caught in some vines.  With bravado, Jack whips out his knife.  He had his arm poised above the piglet as if ready to kill it.  He hesitates for a moment and the pig gets away from him.  What caused his hesitation was that he still has the rules of civilization in him.  These rules keep the "beast" that Golding felt every person carried within him, at bay.  Jack is too civilized yet to kill a living creature - up close and personal.  He sees this as a weakness in him and he is embarrassed by his hesitation and says it was because he was looking for a place to stick the piglet.  He vows that next time, the pig won't get away.  This vow opens the door to the savagery that will overtake him and many of the boys.  This inner savage is the beast that the boys have to fear on the island.

cindymaya's profile pic

cindymaya | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

Bc hes all talk and No action

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