Notes on Lord of the Flies Themes

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Lord of the Flies Topic Tracking: Government

Topic Tracking: Government

Chapter 1 "The Sound of the Shell" & 2 "Fire on the Mountain"

Government 1: Ralph is the democratically elected political leader of the group and Jack, "marching" in with his choir is akin to a military leader, assigned to lead the choir as if it were an army. In the beginning, these two elements--the democratic republic and the dictator--appear to be close friends, agreeing to cooperate with one another. The dictator, Jack, agrees to support Ralph as he makes political decisions for the group during the "assembly," going so far as to offer his choir, the army, to watch over the signal fire on the mountain.

Government 2: Ralph continues to establish a democratic political foundation, and the description of the children sitting in organized sections during assembly is reflective of a government meeting. Jack continues to support him offering his choir to protect them against any beast; abiding by Ralph's rules, he addresses the group only when he holds the conch in his hands.

Chapter 3 "Huts on the Beach" & 4 "Painted Faces and Long Hair"

Government 3: The first signs of discord appear between Ralph and Jack, the political heads of their miniaturized society. While Ralph struggles to build shelters to live in until they are rescued, Jack has been off hunting pigs, showing very little concern or planning for their rescue. He yearns to kill the pigs, insisting that they "need meat."

Government 4: Jack assembles his choirboys, his "hunters," as he likes to call them. He has painted himself and becomes more and more obsessed with killing pigs, even as Ralph struggles to worry about what is best for the group. Their relationship continues to disintegrate and, rather than keeping his hunters on the mountain to guard the signal fire, they go off to hunt in the forest.

Government 5: The bond between Ralph and Jack is severed, as unforgivable damage has been done. A ship which could have come to their rescue has passed them by since the signal fire went out while Jack's hunters were out helping him to kill the sow. They become almost tribal in nature, chanting, proud that they had killed something. The democratic Ralph sees this activity as a threat to the group's dynamics, while the primal Jack sees this as a way to build the war hunger of his choir and cement his role as the warrior-leader.

Chapter 5 "Beast from the Water" & 6 "Beast from the Air"

Government 6: The ability of governing well is linked with acting like a grown-up, with Ralph yearning for something of the adult world to help them reassert order. Jack continues to become more and more an adversary to Ralph, no longer following the assembly's rules and talking without holding the conch, an item which gives the privilege of speaking to its possessor--this rule is also now disregarded. Jack's dictatorship becomes an adversary to Ralph's republic.

Government 7: When investigating the presence of a beast on the island, Ralph increasingly appears weak and yields to Jack by permitting a pig hunt. This delays the possibility of rekindling the signal fire on the mountain. Even the civilized Ralph starts to follow some of the same primal impulses that drive Jack, the desire to kill. However, Ralph reasserts his authority and insists that this activity be abandoned--much to the disdain of Jack, who reluctantly obeys.

Chapter 7 "Shadows and Tall Trees" & 8 "Gift for the Darkness"

Government 8: Yet again Ralph sways in his leadership, allowing a ritual of slaying a pig. Jack talks more and more of how to improve the ritual. After taking part in this himself, Ralph suddenly turns on them and insists that they must continue on to the mountain.

Government 9: Jack shows envy over Piggy's logic and foresight. Ralph has also begun to think logically like Piggy, rather than becoming tribal and following Jack. However, to lead his tribe, Jack does not need logic or foresight--he simply listens to the primal instincts to kill and transforms these into action.

Government 10: The fatal split between the republic and the tribe occurs here as Jack goes off to establish his tribe, taking most of the boys with him. Ralph still clings to his old democratic ideas blindly, still using the conch in assembly and speaking about matters of saving the "group", even though most of the group is no longer under his control. His democracy has proven to be less effective than Jack's more basic and instinctive government.

Chapter 9 "A View to a Death" & 10 "The Shell and the Glasses"

Government 11: Ralph's role as political leader is weakened further. He willingly goes to the pig roast after Jack has openly mocked and rejected his democratic government. Ralph had tried to restore his democracy with use of the conch to call an assembly, but failed--he considers joining Jack's new tribe. Ralph participates in the ritual and chants along with the hunters.

Government 12: Having become the minority by clinging to his democracy, Ralph is now attacked and beaten up by Jack and his hunters. Thinking his society and system of governance still to be important, he assumes that they have come to steal the conch, though it is Piggy's fire-starting glasses they take. Jack has, piece by piece, eliminated Ralph's power and control. Though Ralph still wants reason and logic to govern, the other boys find Jack's army of hunters to be more appealing, with its simple philosophy of hunting when they are hungry.

Chapter 11 "Castle Rock" & 12 "Cry of the Hunters"

Government 13: Ralph, still holding onto his democratic ideals, becomes an equal to Jack and his primal society, mirroring Jack's language in addressing him as they fight. Once again he becomes one of them; he becomes a hunter and his old politics and leadership are forgotten. Jack was the primal leader since early on in the story. Now stripped of his democracy, Ralph behaves similarly.

Government 14: Piggy has died and Samneric have become hunters. These having been the final three boys to support him, Ralph has no one left to lead, and as such is lost, literally, running through the forest with no signal fire and no goal except to survive. He has become primal in the manner of Jack and the other boys, but is still not one of the hunters--therefore, Ralph becomes the hunted. Democratic ideals have been forgotten.

Government 15: After all the boys, including Ralph, have become primal in their behavior, they are saved by the one thing Ralph had always wished for to restore his democracy: grown-ups. However, just as these boys had all resorted to killing as a way of life, they are ironically rescued by grown-up soldiers whose purpose is much the same: to hunt and kill the enemy.

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