Compare and Contrast Ralph and Jack

Lord of the flies is a novel about a group of boys who are lost on an island in the middle of the ocean. It is written by William Golding. Two of the key characters in the novel are Ralph and Jack, they have completely dissimilar characteristics and this essay will compare those two characters.

The first time we see the two characters of Ralph and Jack contrast is in chapter one. The readers read that when Ralph first appeared on the island he was wearing his school sweater. Slowly because of the heat he took it off and ‘trailed it… from one hand’. The fact that Ralph shows no respect for his clothes tells the reader that he is an ordinary school boy who does not yet care about his appearance. As a result of this he is not self conscious and thereby innocent. In contrast, Jack and his choir’s, `bodies, from throat to ankle, were hidden by black cloaks which bore a long silver cross…`. Their dark clothes are menacing and hint about them being savages in the future. Their clothing is extremely unsuitable for their new surroundings and they soon take them off. Jack is also clearly the leader of the choir, as he is wearing a golden cap. He over exercises his authority and hurls orders at his choir boys.

The readers also work out from this first chapter that Ralph was brought up in the Home Counties. Golding writes that Ralph, ‘…jerked his stockings with an automatic gesture that made the jungle seem for a moment like the Home Counties’. We can assume that Ralph, coming from the Home Counties, was brought up in a middle class background. This `automatic gesture` also tells the reader that he is naturally reassuring even in these strange set of circumstances. His natural reassurance is shown again later on when, ‘he saw two little-uns and, not having any idea own appearance , wondered why they screamed and ran`. He calm nature in these bizarre events show how innocent and immature he is.

Ralph’s immatureness is shown further when he finds out that there are no grown ups on the island, `the delight of realised ambition came over him. In the middle of the scar he stood on his head`. Ralph celebrates the fact that there are no adults on the island by standing on his head. Ralph standing on his head symbolises how their lives have been reversed. It also shows what an immature and innocent character Ralph is. Jack’s attitude is completely different, he thinks because he has authority back in school it should be transferred to the island. He arrogantly says that he should be chief, “because I’m chapter chorister and head boy. I can sing C-sharp”. We constantly see Jack trying to be the omnipotent leader. He even `protests` against democracy.

One way in which both the characters of Ralph and Jack are similar in chapter is the way in which they treat Piggy. Ralph at first ignored Piggy for, `when the fat boy waited to be asked his name in turn but this offer of acquaintance was not made…`, Ralph did not care for him at this point and finds him rather tiresome. In-fact he even mocks him by teasing him about his “Ass-mar”. Ralph considers Piggy to be inferior to him as he is middle-class whilst Piggy is lower-class.

Jack also hated him from the beginning, he constantly bullies him by saying things like, “shut up fatty” in-fact he did not even give him a chance. Jack bullies Piggy to make himself seem important, this shows to the reader that Jack is a bully at heart – this unfortunately does not change as the novel progresses. Ralph also betrays Piggy by telling Jack that his, “His real name’s Piggy”. Ralph betrays Piggy’s trust and confidence. Ralph acts in this way to gain popularity with Jack and his cronies as they are upper-class and he is middle-class. Therefore he looks up to them.

Piggy being from a working class background finds life sociably difficult. In comparison Ralph and Jack, who obviously come from a more educated and wealthy background, automatically see themselves as superior.

Piggy is also physically frail, because of his asthma, and needs Ralph to constantly look after him on the island. Ralph immaturity is shown again when in his eagerness to swim he runs and, `in a few moments the fat boy’s grunts were right behind him…`. Ralph’s enthusiasm to swim causes him to leave Piggy behind. Ralph chooses fun over common sense, whilst Piggy tries to be sensible. Ralph immaturity is shown when he, ‘stood there naked looking at the dazzling beach and sea’. Ralph shedding his clothes tells the reader that he is still very much a child and is not worried or self conscious about what others may think of him.

Ralph’s nakedness also tells us that he is innocent and childlike; as a result he is very naive. Being naked in `paradise`, metaphorically reminds the reader of Adam and Eve being naked in the Garden of Eden. If Jack had been around he would have thought it maybe gay or babyish to strip naked in front of everyone because he did not know such innocence as Ralph did. We see that Jack is much more mature and less innocent then Ralph.

However, the readers also see that Jack is still very much a school boy who possesses fear and morals. We read that `Jack’s face was white under the freckles. He noticed that he still held the knife aloft…`. Jack cannot bring himself to kill the pig; he is still a civilised school boy who is squeamish about blood.

Ralph immaturity is shown further when he shows disrespect towards normal aspects of democracy. Piggy constantly warns Ralph that he should be “Careful! You’ll break it!” Ralph is warned how fragile the conch is by Piggy and is irritated by the warning. The conch is symbolic of order, rules and democracy. Therefore Ralph’s careless attitude towards it shows he does not yet understand the great importance of democracy and civilisation. This also shows that Ralph does not appreciate the good value of common-sense. Jack also shows no appreciation for democracy as he protested when they voted for a leader. However, this is out of pure greed of power – not immaturity.

In the last chapter of the novel, Ralph’s character is shown to have taken a complete metamorphosis. A clear example of this is when Ralph exclaims, “How could you listen for naked feet if you’re splashing around in the water?”. In the first chapter Ralph swam in the water without a care in the world. However, now things have changed, Ralph is petrified for his life since Jack and Roger are trying to kill him. These painted savages will do anything Jack or Roger tell them to do, out of fear of being put to death. It seems that terror and danger has changed the immature outlook which Ralph had in life that we see in Chapter One.

We also see that the way the other characters treat Ralph has also altered from the beginning of the novel. The younger children who admired and loved him previously in Chapter One, ignored and mistreated him. This is shown when, ‘he saw two little-uns and … wondered why they screamed and ran`. Ralph has now become too immersed in his emotions due to the sorrows of his current life. This makes Ralph an unrecognisable figure for the younger children.

In Chapter One the whole island was on the whole united in their aims. Now, because of Jack and Ralph’s rift, the island is now split into two territories. Jack and Ralph each have their `end of the island`. This split lets Jack party and bully the `little-uns` in peace without Ralph and Rodger’s interference.

We also see that Ralph’s character in Chapter One whose, `…mouth and eyes that proclaimed no devil`, has totally changed. He has transformed from being a young innocent child to one that is now wild and fears death at every corner. Ralph’s experiences have taught him to be ruthless and not to be so trusting and naive. This is shown when he vents his anger at the pig’s skull. Golding tells us that ‘he lashed out and cried out with loathing…’. Ralph destroys the pig’s skull in the same way that Jack and Roger destroyed the conch. This represents both clans rejection of rules and democracy. The pig skull is the `lord of the flies` as it attracts flies. It also represents evil, so therefore when Ralph destroys it is considered as if he has removed most of the evilness from the island.

In the last chapter Jack’s hatred towards Ralph reaches its climax, “They (Jack and Roger) hate you Ralph. They’re going to kill you”. Jack hates Ralph because Ralph just wants to be rescued, which means you need rules. However, Jack and Roger just want to be free and have no rules or democracy.

In addition Jack also wants to kill Ralph because Ralph took away his leadership and as a result he is extremely jealous.

Upon being rescued by a group of naval officers, ‘The officer inspected the little scarecrow in front of him. The kid needed a bath, a hair-cut, a nose wipe and a good deal of ointment’. The readers are reminded here that despite Ralph going through this horrible ordeal, he is still ultimately a child. This reminds the reader of Ralphs’s character in Chapter One when he looked innocent and childlike and looked at everything with, `bright exciting eyes`. One could see how the events of the novel have changed Ralph’s character. However, Golding’s description of his appearance when he was found by the naval officers, remind the reader that he is still physically a child.

In conclusion when comparing Jack and Ralph’s characters in the first and last chapter in the novel, one can see that the main differences are that Jack is more conventional and conformist where Ralph is more easy going and a little rebellious who is always on the look out for adventure and danger. However, Ralph would like to be rescued by others where as Jack would like to make his own ‘gang’ and would thrive on his own leadership.

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