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Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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Discussion Topic

The significance and behavioral impact of Jack’s mask in Lord of the Flies

Summary:

Jack's mask in Lord of the Flies signifies his descent into savagery and loss of societal norms. The mask allows him to shed his civilized identity and embrace his primal instincts, leading to increasingly violent and ruthless behavior. It symbolizes the liberation from shame and self-consciousness, enabling Jack and the other boys to commit acts they wouldn't otherwise consider.

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In chapter 4 of Lord of the Flies, what effect does the face paint have on Jack?

Jack first talks about painting faces in chapter three, excitedly talking about how they can paint their faces and then sneak up on the pigs while they are sleeping.

In the next chapter, Jack is working on his mask for quite some time as he wants to make it just right. Because once he covers his face, he feels a complete escape from responsibility and the rules of civilization. Golding writes that "Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness." This change is an important one as Jack is suddenly allowed to overcome his natural inhibition and can now kill pigs.

This is just the first step down the road that will allow Jack and the others who follow him to use violence more freely and eventually murder both Simon and Piggy. Recalling Jack's inability to stab a pig at his first encounter, the painted face is an important step down the road to savagery.

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How does Jack's mask change his behavior in chapter 4 of Lord of the Flies?

This is actually a pretty common phenomenon, at least among some people.  The act of putting on a mask seems to allow some people to behave in ways they otherwise wouldn't be able to.  On the one hand, you can think of all the serial killers in the movies (Jason, Michael Myers, Leatherface) and on the other hand you can think of the jerk at the football game who paints his face, wears a beer hat, and screams a lot.

Jack's "mask" is really some improvised makeup, but it works in the same sort of fashion.  As soon as he gets it the way he wants it, kind of creepy like, he is thrilled:

He looked in astonishment, no longer at himself but at an awesome stranger. He spilt the water and leapt to his feet, laughing excitedly.

The mask has allowed him to become something different, an "awesome stranger."

He began to dance and his laughter became a bloodthirsty snarling. He capered toward Bill, and the mask was a thing on its own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness.

This really hits at the heart of it.  Notice the part of the quote where it says "Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness."  The mask, essentially, allows Jack to put aside morality and a lot of the social conventions that might otherwise govern his behavior.

“I cut the pig’s throat,” said Jack, proudly,"

This is the ultimate product of the mask.  It has allowed Jack to do what he could not previously stomach: kill the pig.

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In chapter 4 of Lord of the Flies, how did the mask affect Roger's behavior?

In Chapter Four, Maurice and Roger emerge from the forest and, seeing two of the small boys, the bigger boys destroy their creations in the sand. Shortly thereafter, Roger throws rocks that just miss Henry as he plays on the beach. But, when Jack calls him and displays his mask, Roger "understands" that there is something compelling about the mask.

At the beginning of the chapter, Roger and Maurice destroy the sand castles the littluns have built, causing Percival to get sand in his eyes and cry. Later, Roger watches Henry play in the pool and he throws stones around Henry "...because his [Roger’s] arm was conditioned by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins" (Ch.4).

Roger has been punished in school for harming others. His society has conditioned him with its values. However, after Henry loses interest and leaves the beach, Jack, who has been watching Roger, eagerly calls the mean boy over to him. Jack explains that when they hunt, the pigs see his face and run off. But, if he disguises himself, then he may be more successful in killing the pigs.

He began to dance and his laughter became a bloodthirsty snarling. He capered toward Bill, and the mask was a thing of its own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness. (Ch. 4)

Watching Jack, Roger understands that Jack acts out his natural savage urges when he can hide behind his mask. The mask becomes "a thing of its own" as it liberates those who wear one from the conditioning of their society, and it compels the others to obey. The constraints of society are what has kept Roger from hitting Henry with the stones that he has thrown. Later, when he wears a mask, Roger also liberates his own cruel tendencies and acts upon them with great violence.

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What is the significance of Jack's mask in chapter 4 of Lord of the Flies?

The significance of Jack's mask is that it becomes a facade behind which he can throw off all shackles of civilized behaviour and instead behave like a truly savage hunter. It is in chapter four that he first paints on his hunting mask and we see the beginning of his slide into barbarity.

Jack evidently delights in his transformation to a savage. When he first saw his reflection he, "...looked in astonishment, no longer at himself but at an awesome stranger...." (p. 80). Soon after he shows a complete surrender to primitive behaviour - "He began to dance and his laughter became a bloodthirsty snarling" (p.80).

It is also significant that later Jack's hunters all use the mask of paint. It not only signifies that they are the hunting party, but that they no longer feel the rules of the group as led by Ralph apply to them. When Ralph's group is later reduced to a pitiful number and condition, Samneric suggest that they too should use paint, presumably to feel more powerful and more connected to the group who have the strength. Significantly, Ralph shouts down the idea as he doesn't want his group to look like 'savages'.

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How does Jack's appearance change from his arrival to Chapter 3 in Lord of the Flies?

Golding uses the description of Jack at the beginning of Chapter 3 for several purposes.  First, he tells the reader that Jack's hair has grown; it is shaggy and almost covers his eyes.  This of course, connotes the passage of time since the boys first landed on the island.  His clothes are torn and his skin is bronzed from the sun.  Secondly, it is important to note Jack's posture:  He is trailing a pig in a crouched position, almost on all fours.  He is using not only his eyes but also his ears and nose to follow the trail.  Golding is subtly showing the reader that Jack is digressing to a more primitive state, one in which instincts are valued over reason and common sense.  This portrayal sets up the conflict that follows between Jack and Ralph, who is concerned with building a sturdy shelter for the younger boys so they won't be frightened and have nightmares.  Also, Jack carries a stick that has been sharpened to be used as a spear.  As the novel progresses, this stick will eventually be sharpened at both ends, signifying Jack's complete disintegration into savagery.

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