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

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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Compare and contrast the leadership roles of Ralph and Jack in Lord of the Flies.

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Ralph is a selfless leader who is focused on the essential elements of survival and rescue. Ralph is constantly reminding the boys of the importance of maintaining a signal fire. Ralph uses the conch to organize and call assemblies. Throughout the assemblies, Ralph allows others to speak and takes into...

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consideration their ideas and feelings. He cares for each child on the island, eventhe littluns, which he builds shelters for so they feel a sense of comfort during the night. Ralph exercises good judgment in times of adversity. He stands up to Jack at critical parts throughout the novel and firmly believes in civility over barbarism. Ralph leads by example, but is not able to convince the majority of the castaways to follow his tribe. Ralph's leadership is undermined by Jack, who advocates for hunting and pleasurable activities.

Jack is a charismatic leader similar to Ralph. He possesses the ability to rally the boys and convinces them to follow his leadership. Jack's agenda differs from Ralph's as he proposes that the boys hunt and swim instead of maintaining the signal fire and constructing shelters. Jack uses intimidation and punishment to motivate his tribe, unlike Ralph. Jack's leadership can be described as tyrannical because he seldom takes other people's thoughts into consideration. Jack's tribe is the epitome of savage brutality. Ralph's tribe is the epitome of civility and structure.

Both boys understand the importance of bravery and intelligence. There are several scenes throughout the novel where both Jack and Ralph display courage in the face of adversity which gains them favor in the eyes of their followers. Although Jack overlooks several essential elements of survival and rescue, Jack is the one who suggests they use Piggy's glasses to start a fire and teaches the boys how to hunt. Both boys use objects that represent their tribes' allegiance. Ralph uses the conch as a symbol of authority while Jack uses the Lord of the Flies as a totem.

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What are some differences between the leadership styles of Jack and Ralph?

One other important thing about Jack is that on some level he understands the fear that is within the boys. Ralph thinks that having rules and meetings and structure will help the boys deal with their fear of the unknown. This and the sort of coolness the boys sense in him leads them to vote for him. Jack's first impression was one of the angry, dominant leader and the boys were at first putt off by it.

But Jack sees that the hunt and the kill and the celebration of it is something that the boys need, he understands that it allows them to externalize the fear of "the beast." He uses this fear to justify his actions and to compel the boys to follow his orders.

Ralph lacks this understanding and just keeps chasing the dream of being rescued even when the brief period of cohesion around a goal quickly begins to unravel in the face of the nameless, shifting fear of "the beast." His idea of a democratic, rule-based structure cannot survive in the face of that fear.

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What are some differences between the leadership styles of Jack and Ralph?

Ralph prefers to lead in a way that mimics how grownups would behave.  He hopes that this will give the "young'uns" a sense of security and would maximize their changes of being rescued.  His three priorities are a signal fire, hunting, and shelter.  He was elected democratically, and if he has any leadership flaws it would be his tendency to give his followers too much choice.

Jack leads by force and reward.  He bullies and bribes people into following him.  Typically everyone succumbs to one or the other.  He creates a more primal, barbaric sort of sociey in which the boys paint their faces and dance around the fire.  Fun and meat are priority, not a signal fire.  One gets the impression that Jack may not even want to be rescued.

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Throughout the novel, how did Ralph's and Jack's leadership styles differ from each other?

From the beginning Ralph wants an order to their new "society," which is why he wants to use the conch.  It symbolizes that order, giving anyone who holds it--and only those who hold it the right to speak at meetings.  He wants huts built, latrines used; he wants a fire to allow rescue. He has a real sense of responsibility and worries about others and things going right.  Jack, however, eschews such democratic style of leadership. When he forms his own tribe, he is the "chief" and wants to be referred to as such. For him brute force, not intelligence, brings structure, which is chaos, which we see when violence runs rampant and Simon is killed. 

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Compare the leadership styles of Jack and Ralph, with examples from the novel.

Ralph leads by what he sees as the rule of law.  He feels that the boys need to be organized, that they need to follow rules, many of them suggested by Piggy, who represents society and the rule of law and reason on the island.  For example, Ralph suggests that they take turns talking and whoever is in possession of the conch has the right to talk and the others have to listen.

Jack, on the other hand, represents and epitomizes the fear of the unknown and the rule of instinct and power.  He capitalizes on the boys desire for meat, their fear of the unknown, and their desire to hunt and assume a masculinity and ferocity that they did not know in their previous life as obedient schoolboys.  He is always pushing to see who wants to go hunt, who wants to play violently, etc.

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