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

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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What are the three colors of Jack's mask in Lord of the Flies?

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Jack’s mask was red, white, and black.

Jack’s mask is a strong symbol of his growing savagery.  When the boys are first stranded on the island, they need leadership.  As choir director, Jack feels that the role should fall to him.  However, the group chooses Ralph because of the secret stillness from which he derives his power, especially because he is the one who blows the conch shell and brings the boys together.

The boys do need food, but hunting is not an absolute necessity.  There is plenty of fruit on the island.  From the beginning, hunting is an exposition of savagery and bloodlust.  Jack and his tribe hunt because they want to feel alive, not because they are hungry.  From this results the painted faces that evolve from the pig dance.

Beside the pool his sinewy body held up a mask that drew their eyes and appalled them.  … The face of red and white and black swung through the air and jigged toward Bill. (Ch. 4)

The colors are stark and frightening.  Blood-red streaks and black stripes from impromptu warpaint decorate Jack’s face, making him someone else.

The masks are an important part of the devolving of Jack’s tribe.  When the put on the masks, they become someone else.  They are free to do whatever they want.  A sort of mob mentality takes over, and they get carried away in the anonymity.  It is this raw vulgarity that results in their killing Simon during their “kill the beast” dance. 

The horror the boys feel at seeing Jack's mask for the first time foreshadows the danger this new step will cause, as Jack moves from the choirmaster to the head of the hunters' tribe, causing a great schism between the boys.

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