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 suddenly feel empowered to openly challenge Ralph and "the rules" in chapter 5? In your opinion, is Jack actually afraid of a beast from the ocean, or is he just using the littluns' fear to manipulate the group?

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When Ralph calls an assembly in chapter 5, he wants to get various issues of order resolved, especially keeping the fire going, but also issues of sanitation and work duties. Unfortunately, he calls the meeting late in the day, and in the darkness, his authority is less visible, so less respected.

Jack, fresh off the successful pig hunt, is feeling empowered. When the meeting starts to break down by discussing the fears of the littluns, Jack uses the confusion and chaos to step in and offer himself as a strong leader. He assures the boys that, as a hunter, he has been all around the island and has not seen a beast. He tells the children, "Of course we're frightened sometimes, but we put up with being frightened." When Jack thinks Ralph is favoring Piggy, his jealousy prompts him to lash out at Ralph and say, "Who are you, anyway? Sitting there telling people what to do. You can't hunt..." After Ralph reminds him of rules, he shouts, "Bullocks to the rules! We're strong--we hunt!" A combination of his success with hunting, the chaos caused by the littluns' fear, and his jealousy inspires Jack to rebel and challenge Ralph's leadership.

As to whether Jack really experiences fear, yes, he does. In chapter 3, Jack confesses to Ralph and Simon that sometimes when he is hunting, "you can feel as if you're not hunting but--being hunted, as if something's behind you all the time in the jungle." So although he may not have considered a beast from the ocean before this, nevertheless he actually is afraid himself. It appears that he was not as much using the littluns' fears as strategic manipulation but simply capitalized on them in the moment to advance himself. In addition, by promising to protect the rest of the boys from the "beast," he was bolstering his own courage with his bravado. 

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