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

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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How does Golding present the theme of conflict through Ralph and Jack in Lord of the Flies?

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Ralph and Jack's relationship on the island starts in a highly congenial fashion yet ends in a life and death struggle. For Jack's part his rapid descent into savagery is mostly a result of his obsession with hunting, but is also fuelled by his resentment for not having being elected leader on the island. For Ralph's part there is nothing but bewilderment regarding the escalation of the conflict between himself and Jack. He cannot understand why Jack doesn't see the signal fire as the number one priority on the island, and he laments Jack's increasing aggression towards him, "Ralph sighed, sensing the rising antagonism, understanding that this was how Jack felt as soon as he ceased to lead....he spoke despairingly...."Why do you hate me?" (p.146).

Golding clevery uses characterization to reveal the escalating conflict between the two boys. Ralph is shown as a brave and determined leader (for example, he leads in the search for the beast) but his failure in being able to lead allows Jack to gain the ascendency over the boys (for example, the breakdown in the night time meeting is largely a result of him giving confused and contradictory statements). In Jack we initially see and adventurous boy who graciously cedes the leadership to Ralph, but later we see a thirst for blood, violence and power as evidenced in the hunting 'song', his intimidation of Piggy and his taking hostage of Sam n'Eric.  

Third person omniscient is a highly effective narration technique used in the novel, as we are able to experience the conflict deepen through the actions speech and thoughts of the boys. Golding's narration assists in our understanding of this conflict, as evidenced in the first serious breakbown between Jack and Ralph when the fire was left unattended; "So Ralph asserted his chieftainship and could not have chosen a better way if he had thought for days. Against this weapon, so indefinable and so effective, Jack was powerless and raged without knowing why."      

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How does Golding portray the worsening relationship of Jack and Ralph?

Although Ralph and Jack begin the story as friends, their relationship steadily declines as Jack descends into savagery and Ralph clings more fiercely to order and morality, supporting Golding's theme that people must guard themselves to avoid falling into depravity. In the first chapter, Ralph and Jack meet each other, and Ralph chooses Jack to accompany him on an exploration of the island. They get along well with each other despite Jack's jealousy over not having been chosen as chief. In the second chapter, Jack voices his agreement with Ralph about following rules and doing "the right things." But in chapter 3, Ralph becomes disappointed with Jack's not helping with the shelters and being too focused on hunting without having provided any meat yet, and they have an argument. Their two different worldviews begin to be apparent as "they walked along, two continents of experience and feeling, unable to communicate." This shows them beginning to diverge in their priorities, which leads to conflict.

When Jack lets the signal fire go out in order to kill his first pig, Ralph is furious with him. Jack responds in anger, punching Piggy and breaking his glasses, after which Ralph turns to Piggy, not quite realizing how "a link between him and Jack had been snapped and fastened elsewhere." Thereafter Jack and Ralph are more and more at odds. Jack disobeys rules at the meetings and even tries to vote Ralph out of being chief. Jack starts to use face paint and deceives Ralph to get fire to have his own feast on the beach. Piggy and Ralph discuss how things are deteriorating and attribute it to Jack, around whose name "a taboo was evolving."

After the feast on the beach where Jack has deliberately tried to draw boys away from Ralph, Jack develops his own tribe, and the two factions are opposed to each other. Jack sends boys at night to beat up Ralph's group and steal Piggy's glasses, and Jack moves his tribe to Castle Rock. Now Ralph feels completely alienated from Jack. Jack now treats Ralph as an enemy, and when Ralph comes to Castle Rock to get Piggy's glasses, Jack opposes him, captures Samneric, and wounds Ralph with his spear in a fight. After Piggy's death, Ralph is alone and learns that Jack plans to hunt him the next day. What was once friendship between the boys now spells Ralph's death sentence: "Then there was that indefinable connection between himself and Jack; who therefore would never let him alone; never." Ralph says to the captured Samneric about Jack, "What have I done? I liked him—and I wanted us to be rescued." Samneric inform Ralph that Jack and the others hate him and are going to hunt him. Golding uses the relationship between Ralph and Jack to illustrate his theme that if people don't consciously work at maintaining morality and order, they will plunge into savagery, and that those two worldviews cannot peacefully coexist.

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How does Golding explore conflict in the novel through the characters of Jack and Ralph?

When planning this essay on conflict in Lord of the Flies, find three main points about Golding exploring conflict through his two characters, Jack and Ralph.  At the beginning, Ralph is elected the leader of the group, and the group sets up rules to live as civilized beings which they have been.  However, Jack goes against Ralph and takes his hunters which sets the two groups into physical conflict. This paragraph needs to show how one group hunts or fights the other physically. Your second paragraph may show Golding exploring the moral conflict of the descent into savagery while Ralph and his group try to maintain the rules of civilized beings.  Use examples like the thinking Ralph does about how to escape the hunters and return alive from the island.  The third paragraph would explain the last main idea about the conflict of Jack's  hunt to kill Ralph just as the naval officer arrives from the outside world and rescues Ralph.  Now both boys must figure out how to return to being civilized in the "real world".  Your introductory paragraph should paraphrase the question and introduce your three main points.  Your conclusion paragraph should summarize Golding's exploration of conflict using Jack and Ralph while your three main points should prove what you believe Golding's novel accomplished with conflict.

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