Character Developement In Lord Of The Flies

Essay, Research Paper

Lord of the Flies: Development of the Characters

In William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, there are at least three characters that display both civilized and uncivilized behavior. These characters are Ralph, Jack, and Samneric. Ralph, the elected leader, is a “model boy” whose central motives are to be rescued from the island. At the beginning of the novel he is a civilized leader, but as time progresses he is hunted like an animal. Jack Merridew, the bossy choirboy, is the ruthless leader whose main intentions are to hunt. In the beginning, he maintains organization within his choir group. Later on in the novel, Jack de-evolves and becomes the chief of a band of savage hunters. Samneric, the twins, are followers that are always referred to as one. They represent neutral characters and they support any leader.

Ralph, the protagonist, displays different types of behavior as he matures. Ralph is a tall blonde boy who comes from a middle class English family. He is a dreamer rather than a person of action. For example, on page 38 Ralph convinces everyone that “…it is like in a book…” such as “…Treasure Island, Swallows and Amazons, and Coral Island.” He also says, “This is our island. It’s a good island. Until the grown-ups come to fetch us we’ll have fun.” These quotes reveal that Ralph would rather have fun while waiting to be rescued. As the novel progresses, Ralph produces several civilized decisions. His main intentions are to keep order on the island and to be rescued. Ralph uses the conch to call the boys on the island to meet (pg.18) and to get their attention and silence by holding it up (pg.25). On page 36, Ralph states that, “I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak. He can hold it when he’s speaking.” Ralph again, is trying to maintain order during the meetings. Also, Ralph insists on making the fire so that they can be rescued. On page 41, Ralph states, “We must make a fire.” His insistence and perseverance in building the rescue fire is an example of a mature, intelligent human. Furthermore, Ralph wants everyone to build a solid shelter so that they can be protected at night and during bad weather (pg.55). Therefore, Ralph’s actions of trying to maintain order, to be rescued and to have proper shelter are characteristics of mature, civilized behavior. These characteristics occur in the first half of the novel. In the later chapters, Ralph is overwhelmed by the evil inside him. This changes Ralph and he starts to perform uncivilized acts. In chapter 7, Ralph, for the first time, participates in a sadistic hunt for a wild boar. He begins to realize how exhilarating the hunt is. Ralph’s new found instinct is illustrated on page 125 when Ralph excitedly shouts, “I hit him all right. The spear stuck in. I wounded him!” Another illustration on page 125: ‘He [Ralph] sunned himself in their new respect and felt that hunting was good after all.’ Ralph previously failed to recognize this instinct, but now he is driven to behave like a savage. This savageness begins to become apparent on page 126: ‘Ralph, carried away by a sudden thick excitement, grabbed Eric’s spear and jabbed at Robert with it.’ And: ‘Ralph too was fighting to get near, to get a handful of that brown, vulnerable flesh. The desire to squeeze and hurt was over-mastering.’ Another uncivilized action by Ralph is when he participates in Simon’s massacre. This occurs in chapter 9 when Jack, leader of the other tribe, invites Ralph and Piggy to a feast on the other side of the island. During the feast, a dark aberration emerges from the bushes, and it is quickly branded as “the beast”. The dark figure is only Simon with his message about the beast. But the boys didn’t recognize the voice of their friend. The frenzied boys, including Ralph, leap on the helpless youngster, beating and tearing him to death, despite his cries of pain and terror. Also, in chapter 12, Ralph is hunted like an animal by Jack’s band of savages. Here, Ralph displays the most significant change of behavior in the novel. He degenerates into an “animal”. Ralph is forced to hide in a nearly impenetrable thicket. He becomes terrified and instinctively thinks only of escaping, like an animal, to a safe hideout. Ralph matures throughout the novel, but de-evolves in civilized behavior near the end. At the end of the story, Ralph realizes that his dream world and his idealism have changed. He is a mature man who now sees the world and its people for what they are.

Jack, the antagonist, loses civilized attributes as the novel progresses. He is a tall and thin boy. He, similar to Ralph, displays civilized characteristics at the beginning. He shows his talent for leadership, which is a rational quality. In chapter 1, Jack enters the story by leading his choir band. And later on, he leads a group of boys to hunt. Another civilized action Jack performs is when he decides not the kill the young wild pig. On page 33 it states: ‘then the piglet tore loose from the creepers and scurried into the undergrowth. They were left looking at each other and the place of terror. Jack’s face was white under the freckles. He noticed that he still held the knife aloft and brought his arm down replacing the blade in the sheath.’ Jack realizes the importance of life and how killing a piglet for no particular reason is illogical. He shares the same intentions as Ralph early in the book. Such as, in chapters 1 and 2, he aids Ralph with his duties. But soon after the deterioration of his character is evident. He becomes the chief of a band of savages and has uncivilized intentions. Jack wishes to hunt sadistically and to annihilate Ralph and his tribe. Jack begins his uncivilized actions when he finds enjoyment painting his face for hunts. In chapter 4, Jack paints his face, and lures others to do so. Then, in chapter 9, Jack creates his own tribe. Subsequently most of the boys were assimilated into his tribe. Jack uses his power to fulfill his uncivilized deeds. He orders his tribe to ambush the opposing tribe. Afterwards, Jack begins promoting sadistic hunts and murders of humans and boars. In various chapters, he leads his tribe to hunt wild boars. Jack and his tribe even make up a ritualistic dance for their success in a hunt. Later, his savages kill two contributing characters. In chapter 9, they slaughter Simon ritualistically. In chapter 11, a boulder that Roger pushed flattens Piggy. Jack also decides to order his people to hunt down Ralph like a sow. All these newly developed qualities represent the consequences of an uncontrolled society. Abstractly, Jack represents the bestial instinct of mankind unrestrained by any rational control.

Samneric are very unique characters, their rule is to serve whoever is the leader. They are a pair of light blond, twins. Samneric are without identity as separate individuals. The book always refers them to as one. Under Ralph’s control, the twins serve as civilized assistants. In chapter 2, they work cheerfully for Ralph to gather firewood. And in chapter 4, the twins tend the signal fire as they were told. Even after joining the Jack’s tribe, the twins were civilized enough to aid Ralph. This occurs in chapter 12 when Ralph confronts Samneric and they give him some rations. On page 209 it states: “Here!” said Sam suddenly. “Take this ” Ralph felt a chunk of meat pushed against him and grabbed it.’ Although Samneric are civilized they still commit some uncivilized feats with the control of Jack. The first sign was in chapter 4 when Jack paints his face and orders the twins to hunt with him, which they do. Later in chapter 12, under Jack’s rule, they reveal the location of Ralph’s whereabouts. The twins also agree to hunt down Ralph for Jack. Even though they are uncivilized in the end, they don’t degrade in characteristic. They just follow their leaders’ actions: civilized and/or uncivilized. Therefore, Samneric symbolizes the unthinking mass in society; they are peaceable, likeable and good-natured, but they lack moral conviction.

Throughout the novel, Ralph, Jack, and Samneric lose their civilized ways. Ralph becomes hunted like a wild board. Jack is chief of a band of savages. Samneric are part of that group of savages. Golding proves that even with a group of English boys, who are supposed to be especially “proper” and civilized, are too, devoured by the evil within them. On page 223, the novel agrees: ‘ 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.’ Thus, the theme of the story is: without morals and restraints in society, the evil in every man will always prevail.


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