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 Jack react to the news of the beast in Lord of the Flies, and why?

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In chapter 2, the littlun with the mulberry-colored birthmark holds the conch in front of the assembly and says that he witnessed a "beastie" at night, which resembled a "snake-thing." Ralph responds to the littlun's claims of seeing a beast by telling the littlun that he was simply having a nightmare and believes that the beast is a figment of his overactive imagination. Jack then seizes the conch and says that he agrees with Ralph's assessment. Jack comments that there is no such thing as a beast and if there is a beast, he and his band of hunters will surely kill it. Jack tells the group of boys,

"There isn’t a snake-thing. But if there was a snake we’d hunt it and kill it. We’re going to hunt pigs to get meat for everybody. And we’ll look for the snake too–" (Golding, 50).

Jack's reaction reveals his affinity for hunting and desire to kill living beings. Jack is a savage individual, who views hunting the beast as a challenge. Despite mentioning that he does not believe a beast exists, Jack is enthused about the possibility of hunting and killing it. Jack finds the opportunity to engage in violent behavior exciting and confidently believes that he can kill the beast. Ironically, the idea of a beast on the uninhabited island awakens Jack's inner beast, which is his inherent malevolent nature.

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When he first hears the littluns talking about a Beast, Jack denies its existence, supporting Ralph's argument that such a thing could not live on a small island. He then claims that if there were such a thing, "we'd hunt it and kill it." He then changes the subject to hunting pigs for meat. This is in harmony with his usual behavior, which involves bullying others and using force to get what he wants. Jack actually here uses a strategy common to people like him—acting tough in order to combat his own fear. Ironically, his claim that he could hunt and kill the beast actually helps to reveal that the real beast is within him, and that his growing bloodlust gives it life and strength.

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