Question: Compare and contrast Ralph and Jack in the novel “Lord of the Flies”.
In William Golding’s (1911-1993) novel “Lord of the Flies” (1954) Ralph and Jack are two main characters who have leadership qualities. Both of them symbolize the good and evil of society. Ralph represents civilization and the good side of humanity. On the other hand, Jack represents savagery, barbarism, and the dark side of human nature.
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Ralph and Jack are both strong characters and they appeared in the novel in different ways. Ralph is a tall and good-looking boy. He has golden-haired and comes from a middle-class English family. When Ralph first appeared on this island, he was wearing his school sweater. Golding describes to Jack that he is tall and thin, a little smaller than Ralph. He is also red-haired and ugly. According to Golding-
“Tall, thin, and bony; and his hair was red beneath the black cap. His face was crumpled and freckled, and ugly without silliness. Out of this face stared two light blue eyes, frustrated now, and turning, or ready to turn, to anger?”
Similarities between the two characters
Ralph and Jack are similar in this sense that they are both older boys on the island. They have leadership qualities. Ralph and Jack both are similar in treating Piggy. Ralph at first ignored Piggy. In fact, he mocks him by teasing “Ass-mar”. Ralph considers Piggy to be inferior to him as he is middle class and Piggy is lower class. At the very beginning of the novel, Jack hated him and constantly bullies him by saying things like “shut up fatty”.
In the novel “Lord of the Flies” Golding shows the personality of these two characters Ralph and Jack. Ralph is a developing character and he has no strong personality. At the beginning of the novel, he is not a good leader because he had never cared about such responsibility. So, he starts to make mistakes. His mistake proves that he is not a very good leader. In contrast, it is Jack who is shown to have a fully developed personality. In fact, all of the boys only Jack gives his first and last name.
Mutual trust between Ralph and Jack
Ralph and Jack show some agreement with each other in the early stages of the island search. After lighting a fire on the top of the hill, Jack made an important announcement:
“I agree with Ralph, we’ve got to have rules and obey them. After all, we’re not savages. We are English….”
Thus, in the beginning, we find mutual trust and respect between Ralph and Jack. However, this agreement between the two is not permanent. They soon began to have different opinions about the priorities of their activities on the island.
Jack opposes Ralph as the leader
After the discovery of the conch shell, Ralph heard his lightning and summoned all the boys, and he was elected head of the boys without contest. He then announced that anyone who wanted to speak at the rally should hold the conch. So, the conch becomes a symbol of authority and discipline, but Jack publicly mocks the conch. Thus, Jack opposes Ralph as a leader.
Represent opposite theme
We see that Ralph stands for civilization, while Jack for barbarism. Ralph uses his power to create a democracy, where each person has the right to voice their opinions and ideas.
“I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak. He can hold it when he’s speaking and he won’t be interrupted.”
The conch becomes a symbol of the right of a speaker to a fair hearing while Jack uses his power to create savagery and barbarism. Jack and his followers become so bloodthirsty that relentlessly pursue Ralph who flees to save his life. Both characters exercise their power but in different ways.
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Finally, we can say that Ralph and Jack stand on opposite poles to each other. By creating this type of character Golding shows the real picture of World War II. The novelist provides a message through his novel that evil is inherent in human nature and it needs only a favorable situation to develop and consume all.
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