It is set around the time of war, after a group of young boys are sent on a plane to live where there is no violence, unfortunately their plane crashes and they are left deserted on an island. They have to take care of themselves, and choose a leader, Ralph, to take control of the group and ensure they get back to safety. Things don’t really turn out to plan though and they find themselves battling with good and evil, civilisation and savagery.
Throughout my essay I intend to discuss the two main characters that contrast, Ralph and Jack.
At first Ralph shows complete goodness within him, whereas Jack is shown to be evil, and struggles to control his temper.
When Ralph is first introduced he is described as a boxer.
“You could see now that he might make a boxer, as far as width and heaviness of shoulders went.”
This shows Ralph has power because he was big but he would not use this to be evil. Golding emphasises Ralph’s goodness, this hints to what may happen at the end of the book.
Golding also describes Ralph’s inner being.
“but there was a mildness about his mouth and eyes that proclaimed no devil”
This again shows how good Ralph is, and his purity. Golding shows the contrast of Ralph and Jack by specifically describing their eyes, as it is almost an insight to their inner being. When describing Jack he writes:
“Out of this face stared two blue eyes, frustrated now and
turning, or ready to turn, to anger”
Golding notes the clear difference between Ralph and Jack. Jack almost seems to be crazed as his eyes are “turning … to anger”. Again this gives us an insight into how the book might end, we can see from the first chapter that Ralph will represent the good, civilisation, on the island and Jack will represent evil, savagery on the island.
An important part in the book is when the group are trying to decide who is best to be leader. They have not known each other for a very long time yet they are all positive that they want Ralph, which Jack is furious about, Ralph wants to lead them all to safety and even introduces the conch. They use the conch to keep order, as whoever wants to talk must hold it; it acts like the adult throughout the book.
Ralph wants to try and keep things as normal as possible to back home as some of the boys are only 4, he says:
“We’ll have hands up like at school.”
This also shows that Ralph is willing to take the time to listen to everybody’s opinions with equal importance. This again shows how considerate Ralph is, but also that he desires to be back home and perhaps he wants to keep everything as close to the way it was back home to keep his own sanity.
Jack is furious at the outcome of the vote on who to become leader. He tells Ralph that he and his choir boys will take charge of the hunting. Jack is always very aggressive and scares people into doing what he wants, particularly Piggy, Ralph’s loyal companion. He constantly refers to him as “fatty” and at the end of the book it is Jack’s horrible and nasty nature that leads to Piggy’s unfortunate death. At one point Jack says to Piggy:
“Shut up, fatty”
Again this vividly shows the contrast between the two characters. This is what Jack said to Piggy when he was only expressing an opinion. Jack has no consideration about the rest of the group, and couldn’t care less about their opinions.
It is only certain that the length of time on the island will change their characters. When Jack first goes out hunting, he is unable to kill the pig, yet this just lead him to become more crazed for power and by the end of the book the evilness has crept so far within him there is no turning back.
“The madness came into his eyes again
‘I thought I might kill'”
At one point it even looks as though Ralph may become part of Jack’s side. Jack persuades all the boys to come onto his sides and makes a new camp on the other side of the island, when Ralph runs out of supplies for the fire, they decide to try and make peace, however find themselves in the middle of a dance and participate in the death of Simon, another of Ralph’s loyal companions. Unlike most of the other boys, Ralph becomes overwhelmed with guilt and becomes good again.
It is Ralph’s goodness that almost leads to his own death. After Simon and Piggy have both been killed, Jack’s gang are ordered to hunt him down. During this chase the island is set on fire, and luckily Ralph runs into the arms of safety, in the form of a naval officer who spotted the fire from his ship.
In conclusion, Golding’s description of Ralph and Jack at the beginning of the book give us a clear insight into the outcome of the book. He shows vivid comparisons within the two characters and ultimately civilisation as a whole.