William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is a fictional allegory novel that follows a group of schoolboys, all of various ages and personalities, as they attempt to survive a plane crash on a desert island. As the days pass, contrasting priorities become clear between authoritative characters, which in turn leads to conflict brewing and as a result the unavoidable downfall of order. This leaves the boys murderous whilst they attempt to defend themselves against each other’s savagery and fear. The novel was written in 1954, less than 10 years after WW2 when one of the most notable societies (the Nazis) was controlled by a persuasive leader (Adolf Hitler). Whilst serving in the war, Golding witnessed how humans were easily influenced to do the most unspeakable things and he later stated in a biography that he ‘began to see what people were capable of doing he further said that ‘anyone who moved through those years without understanding that man produces evil as a bee produces honey must be blind or wrong in the head.’ (Biography.com editors)
In the novel, Golding uses a third-person omniscient point of view so as to allow the reader to witness how the characters react and what personalities they possess. In particular the antagonist, Jack Merridew – is an alpha male. His aggressive, intimidating traits lead to the destruction of order and the society made by the other boys. From the start of the novel, Jack constantly feels pitted against Ralph, the protagonist, as he is elected as the chief and Jack becomes determined to show his superiority and power. As the novel continues, the boys become fearful of the ‘beasts’ on the island and Jack uses this to his advantage, to persuade the boys to join his tribe leaving Ralph with no food and no friends other than Piggy. All of this occurs due to the use of Jack’s alpha male personality. This produces the idea that people in power will not be able to persuade the majority without a very specific, powerful personality.
“The alpha male no longer has to be a big and muscular hunter; all he needs is possess the ability to influence the masses and provide them with what they need to go on living.” (Gage, 2012). This idea is highlighted through the initial description of Jack as Golding introduces him as a ‘tall, thin, and, bony’ boy who was ‘ugly without silliness. This leads to the reader producing an image of Jack that is unthreatening but also inaccurate. As we later find in the introduction of Jack, Piggy becomes intimidated by Jack’s ‘offhand authority’ and further suggests that despite Jack lacking physical, desirable attributes, he is still a strong-minded alpha male who demands control over the boys. Jack also holds the ability to influence the boys in the novel as he uses their fear and vulnerability for his personal gain, this can be seen at the start of the novel as the choir is already intimidated by Jack that they don’t do anything until he speaks. He orders the choir around in a military fashion and states that he should be known as Merridew rather than Jack.
The extract that I will focus on is in chapter 5, where Jack takes charge and explains that there is no ‘beast’ on the island. I have used this specific part as it shows how influential Jack can be when putting forward his point of view.
In Golding’s Lord of the Flies, Jack Merridew consistently uses hypophora to, according to Kumar, dominate the conversation and come across as the individual holding the competency to be the elected leader and set things straight. In the scene whereby Jack attempts to articulate his point that there is no ‘beast’ on the island, he uses a range of questions, including ‘Beasts! Where from?’ and ‘What does that mean but nightmares?’ The use of these particular questions is that they are thought-provoking and used by Jack for the purpose of allowing his audience to come to the unavoidable conclusion that he believes – there are no beasts on the island. Furthermore, Jack uses his questions to produce a feeling of uncertainty among the boys. The use of the abstract noun ‘nightmares’ helps to relay this idea, as the connotations lead to fictitious ideas and simple perception, as a result, the boys are left with the belief that their assumptions could be figments of their imagination as Jack questions it with a blasé attitude. This, in turn, foreshadows how Jack uses his authority to affect the boys thinking to believe that he is the alpha male and has all the answers.
Another type of question that Jack uses to elicit a response from the group of boys in ‘Lord of the Flies’ is the leading question: ‘Am I a hunter or not?’, Jack uses this question to force the boys into an answer which establishes him as a hunter. The fact that Jack uses leading questions suggests that he holds ‘conversational dominance’ as he subliminally hints at words that may describe him. The concrete noun ‘hunter’ creates an idea of danger and ruthlessness which Golding crafts around the character of Jack to aid him in representing savagery and the downfall of civility. Once again, Jack is seen as manipulative as he doesn’t allow his congregation to disagree, the use of the choice question ‘Am I .. or not?’ means that none of the boys have the opportunity to speak more on the issue or debate with Jacks point of view, which is overbearing and, according to Jack, final.
‘Words as weapons’ is an apt description of how Jack converses with his peers. Prior to the speech that Jack makes, the boys (particularly the younger ones) all reference the phenomenon on the island as a ‘beastie’ which creates a sense of playfulness and harmlessness. However, when Jack talks about the issue he calls them ‘beasts’ without the euphemistic tone that removes the fear element. The concrete noun of ‘beast’ connotes ideas of monsters and fear, which Jack does deliberately in order to make the boys more vulnerable and scared so as to use it against them. On top of this, the fact that Golding uses dysphemism links to the story world that he attempts to convey. Within the novel, Golding molds characters in a way that they represent real-life subjects; Piggy represents science, Ralph represents civility and Jack represents savagery, so the dysphemism used, helps to display Golding’s intention that although the story is fictional, there are very real elements that perhaps shouldn’t be ‘sugar-coated’ but rather explicitly stated, much like the beasts on the island.
One technique that is used in both of my chosen texts is the use of triple structure. In ‘Lord of the Flies, Jack uses the triple structure to emphasize how the ‘littluns’ hardly do anything around the island. He uses domestic, material verbs, ‘you don’t hunt or build or help’ to convey to the rest of the boys that the younger ones are helpless and undeserving of complaining as they don’t do anything anyway. This use of the triplets allows Jack to put forward his argument clearly as it’s not just one thing but a combination of things that the younger members fail to do. The triple structure is effective as Jack is convincing his peers with just the right amount of information. This can be linked to Jack's point of view as just through this phrase, the reader is given an insight into Jack's true feelings and beliefs. As Jack uses more than one verb to relay what the infantile members don’t do, it suggests to the reader that this is something Jack prioritizes and holds as an important order of business. Therefore, Jack's stylistic choices demonstrate a deeper meaning, which Golding may use to signify to the reader Jack’s opinions and views.
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