Why does Jack hesitate to kill the pig in Lord of the Flies?
Jack paused because of the enormity of taking a life, but he said he was choosing a place to stab.
The boys have a desperate need for meat, and Jack’s choir is chosen to be hunters. However, the hunting is not just for food. It is a show of dominance and power. Simon, Ralph, and Jack find a piglet, and Jack draws the knife “with a flourish” but does not immediately kill the pig. Instead there is a pause.
The pause was only long enough for them to understand what an enormity the downward stroke would be. Then the piglet tore loose ….They were left looking at each other and the place of terror. Jack’s face was white under the freckles. (ch 1)
Jack says he was looking for a place to stab the piglet, and the boys argue about how to kill a pig. Ralph tells him to “stick” it, and Jack says you are supposed to cut the pig’s throat and let the blood run out. The other boys know that stabbing the pig would result in “unbearable blood.”
Jack’s embarrassment at not killing the pig demonstrates that he is still young and immature. He is not completely bloodthirsty yet. He isn’t lost. The thought of killing the pig and draining his blood was, at this point, too much for him. However, the shame of not doing it was worse. Soon Jack embraces his barbaric side, blood and all.
On their way back from exploring the island, the boys hear a squealing piglet, which is stuck in the creepers. As Jack approaches the piglet, he raises his knife in the air but hesitates to bring it down. Jack's brief hesitation allows the piglet to escape from the creepers. Immediately after the piglet escapes, Jack insists that he was choosing the right place to bring his knife down, which is why he hesitated to kill the defenseless animal. However, Golding exposes the true reason for Jack's pause by writing,
"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" (22).
Essentially, the boys have been on the island a short time and still have remnants of civility. None of the boys are used to killing animals. As the novel progresses, Jack and the majority of the boys abandon their civil personalities as they descend into savagery.