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'Lord of the Flies' by William Golding Compare and Contrast the characters of Ralph and Jack and comment on their roles in the novel?

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GCSE English Literature - 'Lord of the Flies' by William Golding Compare and Contrast the characters of Ralph and Jack and comment on their roles in the novel? 'Lord of the Flies' is an allegory, a simple adventure story that also has deeper meaning. Golding uses the characters of Ralph and Jack to illustrate the battle between right and wrong within society. Both have dominant characters but use methods that contrast in many ways. They have different expectations of others and of the island itself, and have opposing priorities and objectives. It is necessary to examine their different character traits in detail, in order to understand how these influence the development of life on the island. At Jack's first appearance in the novel, we recognise him as a natural leader. Jack is the head of the choir and a strict disciplinarian. "Choir! Stand still!" However, throughout this encounter, he maintains control and dignity. Jack has complete confidence in his decisions. He cannot be accused of worrying people by being indecisive as he always has clear and definite opinions. "I ought to be chief ... I can sing C sharp". However, his black cloak and red hair are hints of a dark and fiery side to his character. ...read more.


Simon suggests Ralph needs to be firmer "you're chief, you tell 'em off" However Ralph could also be seen as open-minded. He is always prepared to listen to both sides of an argument without forcing his own opinions. Ralph has an optimistic character, never questioning that rescue will come. Ralph earns the respect of the boys and gains their trust. Jack rules through fear. It is a sign of Ralph's good judgement that he delegates responsibility and trusts Piggy, having respect for his advice. Although like everyone else he becomes more savage in order to survive, unlike Jack he does not take this to extremes. Ralph becomes aware of his filthy appearance "with a little fall of his heart". After Simon's death he says, "I'm frightened of us." In contrast, Jack becomes a good keen hunter and relishes this role. Increasingly he begins to adopt animal-like methods "down like a sprinter" as if he is ready to sniff out the scent. Jack can be very determined, and will persevere. At first, Jack is unable to kill the pig, but he shows promise of completing the task in hand "...I shall! Next time!" Soon his obsession with killing the pig takes over and he can no longer keep his basic instincts under control. ...read more.


It is easy to understand why Jack is viewed as the obvious leader. He came to the island with experience of holding a responsible position. Ralph, however, has a more spontaneous approach. He is less rigid and seems able to adapt to the changing circumstances. Throughout their time on the island we see Jack and Ralph changing due to their environment and the pressures which they face. Often Ralph rises to the challenge with fairness and clear thinking, but the weight of responsibility causes extreme stress. "A strange thing happened in his head. Something flittered there in front of his mind like a bat's wing, obscuring his idea." Jack however becomes increasingly violent and degenerates into an overpowering dictator. 'Lord of the Flies' was written by Golding to highlight some of the relevant issues of the day. Published in 1954, there was a strong worldwide movement against dictators and fascism following the Second World War. The division between Ralph and Jack highlights the gulf between good and evil, "two continents of experience and feeling, unable to communicate". Jack's role symbolises fallen mankind, degenerating as the novel progresses into ultimate sin and savagery. Ralph also becomes aware of the "darkness of man's heart". Ralph's failure to maintain democracy symbolises mankind's failure to deal with our own sinful natures. "Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy." ...read more.

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