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

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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Discussion Topic

Ralph’s election as chief and Jack’s reaction to it in Lord of the Flies

Summary:

Ralph is elected chief because he represents order and authority, symbolized by his possession of the conch. Jack reacts with anger and humiliation, feeling entitled to the role due to his leadership of the choirboys. This initial conflict sets the stage for the power struggle and descent into savagery that defines the novel.

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In Lord of the Flies, how does Jack react to Ralph's election as chief?

When Ralph suggests that the boys vote for a chief, Jack immediately argues that he should be elected chief because he is chapter chorister, head boy, and can sing C sharp. Despite his pleas to be named chief, the majority of the boys select Ralph to be chief.

Golding writes that Jack is mortified by Ralph's election and briefly considers protesting the vote before he eventually acquiesces. As an authoritative natural leader, Jack feels that he should have been elected chief. The fact that Ralph becomes chief fills Jack with jealousy, embarrassment, and envy.

After Ralph is elected chief, he recognizes that Jack is mortified and puts him in charge of the choir, who hunt pigs throughout the island. As the story progresses, Jack takes charge of the hunters and gradually begins to undermine Ralph's authority whenever opportunities arise. After the boys discover the "beast" on the top of the mountain, Jack takes on a more prominent role as the boys's protector and eventually quits Ralph's group in order to establish his own tribe of savages at the opposite end of the island.

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In Lord of the Flies, how does Jack react to Ralph's election as chief?

Well, when the boys decide that they should have a chief, Jack immediately chirps up and puts himself forth for the role:

'Shut up,' said Ralph absently. He lifted the conch. 'Seems to me we ought to have a chief to decide things.'
'A chief! A chief!'
'I ought to be chief,' said Jack with simple arrogance, 'because I'm chapter chorister and head boy. I can sing C sharp.'
Another buzz.
'Well then,' said Jack, 'I-'
He hesitated. The dark boy, Roger, stirred at last and spoke up.
'Let's have a vote.' 'Yes!'
'Vote for a chief!' 'Let's vote-'

One rather suspects that, were the boys not to have opted for democracy, Jack would probably have ensured that he was in charge of the island just as he arrives in charge of the choir ("chapter chorister"). "Jack started to protest..." Golding tells us, but it was too late.

Ralph counted. 'I'm chief then.'
The circle of boys broke into applause. Even the choir applauded; and the freckles on Jack's face disappeared under a blush of mortification. He started up, then changed his mind and sat down again while the air rang. Ralph looked at him, eager to offer something.
'The choir belongs to you, of course.'

Jack is indeed annoyed, "mortified", by Ralph winning the election. And Ralph knows it: he offers him the choir to lead. This simple act of empathy from Ralph might well be considered the biggest mistake Ralph ever makes!

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Why is Ralph elected chief despite Jack's choir leadership in Lord of the Flies?

Jack's choir boys were outnumbered by the other kids on the island. Although "with dreary obedience the choir raised their hands" for Jack, the other boys all voted for Ralph. It was obvious to them that Jack's "simple arrogance" was not a quality of leadership.

... there was a stillness about Ralph as he sat that marked him out: there was his size and attractive appearance; and yet most obscurely, yet more powerfully, there was the conch. The being that had blown that, had sat waiting for them on the platform with the delicate thing balanced on his knees, was set apart.

It may have been more than just choosing the lesser of two evils, since the boys saw something in Ralph that inspired their vote. His bearing and his possession of the conch were the deciding factors.

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Why is Ralph elected chief despite Jack's choir leadership in Lord of the Flies?

You would think that Jack should be elected because he is head of the choir.  But instead, Ralph is elected.  I think this is because the boys have just made it to the island and are therefore still pretty civilized.  Jack represents savagery and Ralph represents civilization.

You can sort of see this in the election scene.  Jack is very aggressive.  He is brutal to Piggy.  He says that he should be the chief with "simple arrogance."  He shows that he want power and he implies that he would be a mean leader.

I think this is why Ralph gets elected at first.

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