What is power in Lord of the Flies, for an essay for the prompt is, "What is power in LOTF?" (not who has power)?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

William Golding's Lord of the Flies is an allegory written in response to a Victorian novel, R. M. Ballantyne's Coral Island, in which civilized  British boys on a island triumph over the indigenous savages.  On the contrary, in Golding's novel, the boys stranded on the island behave "as boys would."  For, Golding's novel depicts the overriding savagery inherent in human nature.  This savagery represented by Jack and the hunters overtakes the conditioning and reason of society, represented by Ralph and Piggy.

Power in Golding's narrative is represented by fire. When Jack and the hunters steal Ralph's fire, the theft is suggestive of the mythological story in which Prometheus steals fire from the gods and gives it to man, thus unleashing violence and chaos among the mortals. In Jack's possession, the fire no longer represents rescue and an act of responsibility in its maintenance; instead, it becomes symbolic of authority just as the conch has been. In Chapter Eight, for Jack the power of the conch no longer exists. Fire, instead, is power, and with it the boys are able to roast the pigs that they capture and kill. In addition, Jacl uses fear of the beast to terrorize the others and get them to submit to him. So, power is often composed of tyrannical actions.

While Jack conquers Ralph's group, conscripting them through the use of force issued by the sadistic Roger, Ralph does attempt to assert himself against Jack earlier in Chapter Six as he defends the importance of the conch and orders Jack to sit down. He claims that Jack only wants to hunt and has forsaken the importance of getting rescued. Reemphasizing the importance of the fire, Ralph gains support and he says,

"Don't you all want to be rescued? ...the fire is the main thing...

"Hasn't anyone got any sense?  We've got to relight that fire.  You never thought of that, Jack, did you?  Or don't any of you want to be rescued?"

Ralph maintains his role of responsibility for a time, but when Jack later steals the fire and, symbolically, the conch is broken, Ralph no longer is a leader because he lacks the power to lead. 

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Lord of the Flies

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