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Lord of the Flies: Jack Merridew



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    Jack Merridew is a symbol for savagery. From the very beginning, he seems to harbor emotions of anger and savagery. At first, he is the leader of his choir group, who become hunters as the book progresses. Finally, his savage personality and ability to tell people what they want to hear, allows him to overtake Ralph as chief. The three points I will be talking about in this essay are Jack’s character, Jack’s symbolism, and the moral or lesson Golding is trying to teach us throughout the story.

    Jack Merridew is a young boy, probably the same age as Ralph, possibly older. On pg. 20 Golding describes Jack as ‘;#8230;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.’; Jack’s eyes are always used in the novel to depict his emotions, as they are in the quote above. When the boys land on the island they are all wearing their school uniforms, but Jack and his choir are wearing cloaks and caps. Oddly enough, Jack is one of the only boys whose last name is learned. I think the author does this to make Jack stand out. He is a very important character because throughout this whole novel, Golding depicts this island and savagery to everyday life. Jack is the perfect character to play this role due to his temperament and power hungry acts. Jack is solely concerned with hunting, and cannot see the necessity of other things that can keep them alive. Fire, an important necessity, is carelessly abused and treated by Jack. His whole existence and survival depend on fire yet his mail goal is to hunt and kill. His controlling and persuasive behavior, allow him to take over the chief position towards the end of the novel. The novel, Lord of the Flies is a novel involving a great deal of symbolism. Different characters provide different symbols. Jack is a symbol of savagery and anarchy. Golding relates this to the evil and cruel people in the world. When Jack first arrives on the island he is excited to have rules for their new settlement. Jack exclaims on pg. 33 ‘ We’ll have rules!’; he cried excitedly. ‘Lots of rules!;#8230;’; Jack changes his view on rules towards the end of the story because he rebels from Ralph’s leadership and starts his own clan. Jack’s character goes from a choirboy who doesn’t have that much power to a savage and power hungry character without guidelines. While Jack’s first attempt to kill the pig failed, his quote ‘ Before I could kill it-but-next time!’; foreshadowed his future of savage hunting. When Jack shows signs of belligerence by arguing with Ralph, the meaning of a child is stressed. The fighting of Jack and Ralph in the early chapters, foreshadows the future conflicts between them in the future. In chapter four called ‘ Painted Faces and Long Hair’;, Jack’s savagery is becoming more known. Jack’s mask of face paint represents a cover that he can hide behind, which liberates and frees him, allowing him to do anything when wearing it, without worrying about any important matters. Jack still does not understand Ralph’s concern with the fire, and doesn’t seem to care much for getting rescued. The primal dance performed by the hunters, highlights their transition into savagery. The conflict between Jack and Ralph begin to build up in chapter five. Jack and his tribe are examples of the Beast running rampant. Their superstition of the beast causes their will to be overpowering and eventually kill Simon believing he is the Beast. In chapter six, Jack, Ralph, and a group of hunters set out to get the Beast, while Piggy stays at the beach with the littl’uns. They first check Castle Rock, where they had never been before. Although they find nothing, Jack thinks the place would be a great fort, and he and his hunters heave a large boulder off a ledge. Jack’s intrigue with Castle Rock foreshadows his future use of the location as a fortification. In Chapter 8 Jack brutally kills a mother pig showing lack of foresight. His actions in this scene are so savage and brutal that you can tell evil has overcome him and the other hunters. Towards the end of the novel in chapter 12, Simon has been killed, Roger and a boulder have killed Piggy, and the intent of killing Ralph has occurred. The twins, Samneric, have been captured, the specs have been stolen and now Jack and his tribe are on a rampage to kill Ralph. Jack throughout the book has changed from a civilized human to a savage boy. The fire set by Jack to burn Ralph out was meant for evil but ended with a rescue. First, it must be understood that the boys’ lives on the island represent a worldwide society. Although one cannot be sure of Golding’s motives for choosing the island setting, it was probably because it works best to have the characters isolated, where the laws of their governments cannot reach them. Also, why did Golding choose children instead of adolescents, or adults? Most likely because children have not yet fully conditioned by society to understand right from wrong, and thus in this ignorance, most of them are guided by their instinct and what is inherent within them. If older, more knowledgeable characters were chosen, the events of the novel may not occur as they do. In the beginning of the story Jack, still conditioned by the previous society he had been apart of; could not bear to kill a pig that was caught in the brush. As the plot progresses he becomes less and less attached to any societal norms. Near the end, he feels no shame about the deaths of Simon and Piggy, nor his attempt to kill Ralph. Lord of the Flies has more than one ‘theme’; or meaning, but the overall and most important one is that the conditions of life within society are closely related to the moral integrity of its individual members. The theme is an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature.

    In conclusion, Golding seems to show the reader that this ‘ethical nature’; is not inherent in mankind. Indeed, there is a certain capacity for evil that resides in man. Jack displayed this clearly. Nonetheless, it is the moral integrity that must prevail in order for him to be civilized and ethical and in order for society to be maintained. Although this is the main idea of the story, others exist underneath it. The most prominent of these, probably, is the fact that often times people single out another person, or another group of people to look down upon in order to feel secure. Jack showed that without society’s rigid rules, anarchy and savagery can come to light. You can only cover up inner savagery so long before it breaks out, given the right situation.

    Lord of the Flies: Jack Merridew. (2019, Jan 30). Retrieved from

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