Lord of the Flies is a novel about a group of young boys stranded on a completely deserted island. They are left to fend for themselves with little to nothing. At first, it seemed simple; one boy would be chief, one group would hunt for food and another would build shelters and support the others. However, the island’s limited resources and conflicts in the group slowly drove most of the boys to madness and savagery. They no longer saw right from wrong; all they saw was hunt, kill, and fun. They are left with much worse than what they started with and even though they do get saved, the trauma of the experience leaves with them. The conditions and the way we express anger and savagery affects not only how others see us, but how we see the world around us and what we do.
Anger is a recurring emotion in our lives, and a powerful one. This emotion can take over anyone, even the best of us. It reprograms our brains and can lead us to do things we can never imagine ourselves doing, such as crime and murder. Some people argue that extreme anger and savagery are results of negative genes. In that case, the victim would have no control over their negative actions. Others believe that situations with severe limitations, such as the predicament in Lord of the Flies, are what drive people to madness. Take Jack for example. We’ll get into it later, but Jack is a character who exhibits anger and savagery throughout the novel.
Before we do anything, let’s take a look at Jack. At the start of the book, Jack was a complete jerk, but he at least understood the situation at hand and offered to help the others survive. He also wanted to be chief at the beginning of the book, but didn't get nearly as many votes as Ralph did. “‘All right. Who wants Jack for chief?’ With dreary obedience the choir raised their hands. ‘Who want’s me’ Every hand outside the choir except Piggy’s was raised immediately. Then Piggy, too, raised his hand grudgingly into the air. ‘I’m chief then.’” (23). After this little election, Jack was pretty upset about not becoming chief. On the plus side, he became in charge of a choir of boys, who’d later become his troop of hunters. This setback has probably increased his anger, though as of now, he shows no ill will to Ralph. Besides, he gets to hunt. That’s something he’s offered and has been willing to do since he got on the island.
Now, let’s skip ahead a couple chapters. One time, when Jack and a few others came back from hunting, Ralph got mad at them because they let the signal fire go out. “Ralph spoke. ‘You let the fire go out.’ Jack checked, vaguely irritated by this irrelevance but too happy to let it worry him.”(69). Jack must’ve been very proud of his catch, and he must love hunting. “‘I cut the pig’s throat,’ said Jack, proudly, and yet twitched as he said it. ‘Can I borrow yours, Ralph, to make a nick in the hilt?’” Hunting seems to be an outlet for him, a way to escape from the other boys and express himself. He and the other hunters love the activity so much that they even made little chant they say whenever they capture a pig. “Kill the pig. Cut the throat. Spill her blood.” This chant varies throughout the book. However, they did let the fire go out, and thus missed a chance to be rescued, much to Ralph’s dismay. He chews Jack out for blowing it, and then Jack gets mad, presumably because his kill wasn’t as important as the situation at hand. “I was chief, and you were going to do what I said. You talk, But you can’t even build huts-then you go off hunting and let out the fire-”(71). Ralph is starting to act a lot like a parent to the others, him being chief. Jack must like the idea of no grownups around, and Ralph is ruining that. Still, nothing was going to stop Jack from hunting pigs, he’s getting to be addictive to it. And then this happens. “This from Piggy, and the wails of agreement from some of the hunters, drove Jack to violence. The bolting look came into his blue eyes. He took a step, and able at last to hit someone, stuck his fist into Piggy’s stomach.”(71) This little shenanigan angered Jack as well, and quote reveals that he’s been itching to hit someone for a while. Now that’s two things that make Jack angry: power and Ralph’s parenting. He’s on his way to savagery.
Let’s look towards the end of the book. At this time, nothing is in order. Savagery and anger have taken over Jack, who has broken away from the group and began his own tribe, gaining many followers. This leaves only Ralph, Piggy, and the two twins, Sam and Eric. One night, Jack’s savages break into what’s left of their shelters, ravage the place and steal Piggy’s glasses. The next morning, the four boys head over to the castle rock, the other tribe’s home, in hopes of getting the glasses back. When Jack refuses, Ralph calls him a thief, and the two fight. “Jack made a rush and stabbed at Ralph’s chest with his spear. Ralph sensed the position of the weapon from the glimpse he caught a Jack’s arm and put the thrust aside with his own butt. Then he bought the end round and caught Jack a stinger across the ear. They were chest to chest, breathing fiercely, pushing and glaring.” (177).
Despite Jack’s superiority, Ralph was right about everything; he was initially voted to be chief, and Jack did attack them and stole Piggy’s glasses. Ralph tries to reason with him, but the Jack he knew was long gone. He wasn’t hiding behind just a painted face, but savagery and anger have clouded him, making him a completely different person, feared by even his tribe members. That’s enough to make anybody crazy. There seems to be three things that sent Jack over the edge: hunger, desire for power, and Ralph’s constant nagging and superiority. By the way, it’s a fact that hunger can cause savagery. The kids on the island have been living water, nuts, berries, and, for some, pig meat. That isn’t very much food to get through the day. Anyway, Jack has always been someone who doesn’t like to be defied, especially by someone who he thinks is inferior to him. And now here was Ralph walking up to him demanding things, again.
In these horrid conditions, Jack became a savage. Again, there were three things that set him off: hunger, power, and Ralph. This island experience was traumatizing for everyone, but I think Jack was affected the most. His thirst for hunting and violence made him a perfect victim of savagery, which I honestly think was bound to happen.
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. New York: Penguin, 2006.
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