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The Frightening Character of Jack in Lord of the Flies

In his novel, ‘Lord of the Flies’, Golding highlights Jack and one of the story’s pivotal characters. Whilst it may originally appear that Jack is just one of the many confused boys on the island, Golding quickly sets Jack aside from the other boys by establishing his frightening character. In this essay I will analyse and explore the linguistic techniques and structural elements of Golding’s writing to determine the ways in which they present Jack as such a frightening figure throughout the novel.

Golding presents Jack as such a frightening character in the novel as he describes how naturally ruthless he is. Golding describes how ‘he gave orders, sang, whistled, threw remarks at the silent Ralph’. The juxtaposition between giving orders and pleasant activities such as singing and whistling, combined with the aggressive lexis ‘threw’, demonstrates how Jack lacks boundaries and that in his mind, the difference between right and wrong is extremely ambiguous, hence why it is so easy for Jack to be ruthless. The lexis ‘silent’ has connotations of vulnerability, Golding’s intention being to reveal how Jack thrives on Ralph’s shortcomings, particularly because at the beginning of the novel, Ralph is presented as a strong orator and is listened to by all the boys. Golding makes explicit the contrast between these two characters, with the intention of foreshadowing later events in the novel whereby Jack rather easily assumes the role of leader, depriving Ralph of the title. This indeed makes Jack a frightening figure as the reader feels sympathetic towards Ralph and his weakness compared to Jack’s power. Jack’s natural brutality is seen elsewhere in the novel as Golding describes how ‘[Jack’s] laughter became a bloodthirsty snarling.’ This is another example of juxtaposition whereby Golding contrasts his innocent qualities with his affinity for savagery. Because these two different sides of Jack’s temperament are so ambiguous, the reader is constantly uncertain of which ‘version’ of Jack to expect, indeed presenting him as a frightening character. Furthermore, the animalistic imagery in the lexis ‘snarling’ is symbolic of Jacks decline into evil, the dehumanisation indeed presenting him as a frightening character by implying he lacks self-control and the basic human moral instinct for right and wrong. Here Golding’s intention was to forewarn the reader that Jack’s primitive nature is something which does indeed become very dangerous later in the novel, making him a frightening character since at this point the reader is afraid of the possible consequence that may arise as a result of Jack’s instinctive brutality.

Furthermore, Golding makes Jack a frightening figure in the novel when exploring his style and success as leader of the boys on the island. After Jack has achieved the role of leader, Golding describes how Jack ‘painted and garlanded, sat there like an idol’, this simile implying that Jack is indeed a leader, but more so a king or a god, the religious connotations of the lexis ‘idol’, implying that the boys, instead of just merely obeying Jack, now worship him, indeed presenting Jack as a frightening character as the reader questions how such an ordinary boy managed to obtain such invincible power. Furthermore, the powerful descriptive noun ‘idol’ implies Jack has a considerable amount of control over the boys and the island and Golding’s intention by implying as such was to create a foreboding tone whereby the reader considers what consequences could ensue now that Jack, an extremely evil yet cunning character, has control over the minds of so many impressionable young boys, indeed making him a very frightening figure. The progression of Jack’s power amongst the boys increases very steadily throughout the novel; in chapter 1 Jack struggles to even be considered as leader, so that fact that now he has totally managed to convince so many boys of his capability as leader, reveals Jack’s manipulative disposition, presenting him as a potentially dangerous and frightening character. In addition, Jack’s totalitarian leadership style speaks a lot about his moral values, or lack of them. This is evident when the reader witnesses a turning point in the novel whereby Jack decides that ‘the conch doesn’t count at the top of the mountain’. This imperative is extremely powerful and definite, emphasises Jack’s power as he establishes leadership for one of the first times in the novel. The harsh alliteration creates a very aggressive tone, which considering Jack is already so aggressive at this point relatively early on in his obtainment of power, foreshadows all the extreme brutality that is yet to come in the novel. Golding’s intention at this point was to ensure the reader feels suitably intimidated by Jack, indeed making his character a frightening one.

In addition, Golding implies that a great deal of Jack’s frightening nature is simply a result of his confident persona, in that he is not afraid to establish dominance and generally lacks the instinctive fear that is present amongst many of the other boys on the island. At the beginning of the novel Jack exclaims that ‘[He] ought to be leader’, and Golding immediately enables the reader to understand that Jack is a very arrogant and indeed frightening figure. The lexis ‘ought’ implies Jack feels particularly entitled and by placing him in a dystopian environment, Golding allows Jack to thrive and gain power, his immediately evident assertive and self-assured disposition foreshadowing his impending establishment of leadership. Jack’s frightening amount of confidence is often displayed in moments of conflict, particularly those throughout the novel that involve Ralph. In chapter 11, arguably at one of Jack’s most brutal moments, Golding illustrates how ‘viciously, with full intention, [Jack] held his spear at Ralph’. This moment is very dramatic in that the fate of both characters, indeed that of Ralph considerably more so, is uncertain. Golding’s choice to inform the reader that Jack’s actions are ‘with full intention’ is extremely deliberate, and sets Jack aside from the other characters in that it is clear he is not being controlled by anything or anybody, therefore making him a frightening figure, as the reader realises that Jack’s brutality is most likely a result of a pre-existing tendency, rather than as a result of his situation. This significant element to Jack’s character, whereby he lacks the innocence that Golding portrays within the other boys, combined with his abundant self-assertion is a key part of how Golding makes Jack such a frightening figure throughout the novel.

In conclusion, Golding’s presentation of Jack as the main antagonist of the novel displays in him certain qualities that are particularly frightening; it is through his successful employment of rhetorical devices, combined with the carefully considered structure of his novel that Golding is able to create an emphatic sense of foreboding and portray the brutality of Jack’s character and leadership style, that combined make Jack such a frightening figure throughout the novel.

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