Two separate illustrations of an animal head and a fire on a mountain

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding
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Why does Jack hesitate to kill the pig in Lord of the Flies?

Jack hesitates to kill the pig in Lord of the Flies because at this stage of the story, he's still relatively civilized. As such, he can't yet handle the enormity of shedding the blood of another living creature.

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Jack hesitates to kill the pig because of the enormity associated with taking the life of a creature and the massive amount of blood involved in the ordeal. At this point in the story, Jack and the other boys are still conditioned to obey the rules of society and behave civilly. None of them have killed an animal before, so the violence and blood involved in taking the helpless creature's life are too much for Jack to endure. Although Jack wishes to be viewed as a strong, fearless hunter, he cannot force himself to bring the knife down to kill the pig.

Instead of taking advantage of the rare opportunity, Jack hesitates and holds his knife in the air while the pig escapes the creepers. Once the pig escapes, Jack makes an excuse by saying that he was searching for the right place to stab. Following the incident, Jack states that the proper way to kill a pig is to cut its throat and promises to kill the next one he sees.

Later on, Jack and his hunters become acclimated to the island and gradually transform into bloodthirsty savages. Once Jack and the choir boys kill their first pig, they focus all their attention on hunting and begin neglecting their agreed-upon duties. Eventually, Jack's obsession with blood and violence reaches a crescendo when he hunts Ralph throughout the island.

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A squealing piglet trapped in the undergrowth gives Jack a golden opportunity to show off in front of the other boys. It would be the easiest thing in the world for him to step forward and kill the creature with one mighty blow. Jack would then have established himself as something of a hunter, a very important role on the island.

And yet, when it comes to the crunch, Jack can't quite bring himself to do it. He lifts the knife in the air, seemingly ready to strike. But he hesitates, which allows the piglet to untangle itself from the jungle creepers and run off.

Not wanting to appear weak and feeble in front of the other boys, Jack claims that he was simply choosing the right place to strike. But that's a pretty lame excuse. In actual fact, Jack is too civilized at this stage of the story to shed the blood of another living creature. He is struck by the sheer enormity of what is involved in sticking the knife into a pig and seeing the blood come spurting out.

Given what will happen later on in the story, this is somewhat ironic, to say the least. In due course, Jack will lose whatever moral qualms he may have had about spilling blood, whether it's the blood of animals or humans.

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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.

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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.

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