Lord of the Flies Essay – Comparing Ralph and Jack – English Essay
There are two types of people on this earth: leaders and followers. A leader is someone who acts as a guide for a person or people. Leaders manipulate followers to their cause and persuade followers to adopt their point
of view. Leaders do not always strive to positively impact on the followers’ lives; sometimes leaders use their skilful persuasion techniques to “force” followers to accept outrageous views. For better or for worse, leaders are incorporated into our everyday society. As politicians running a country; as a CEO managing a company; as a director filming a movie; and even as an adolescent boy governing an island. In William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, an adolescent boy does in fact govern an island. The boy’s name is Ralph and he is on the island with several other boys because their plane crashed. Ralph and other boy, Jack, are the evident leaders of the group. The two boys are at opposite end of the leadership spectrum: Ralph is considerate of the other boys’ opinions when making decisions, while Jack believes that he should be the one to make decisions for the group. Jack believes that he is superior to everyone on the island, while Ralph believes everyone is equal. Ralph is able to stay focused on one long-term task while Jack fulfils the day-to-day requirements of the boys. Between Ralph and Jack, Ralph is the better leader because his qualities allow him to make decisions that benefit the whole group
One very important quality of a leader is the ability to stay focused on what matters while there are many distractions about, a quality that Ralph demonstrates at the very beginning of the story. As soon as Ralph is elected as chief, he concentrates all of his newly acquired authority to being rescued. He assembles a small group of boys to go on an “expedition” to see if they actually are on an island. “If this isn’t an island we might be rescued straight away. So we’ve got to decide if this is an island… three of us will go on an expedition and find out.” (Golding 20). About one quarter way into the novel, Ralph becomes fed up as he finds only himself and one other boy building a shelter for the entire group.
“’You remember the meeting? How everyone was going to work hard until the shelters were finished?’… ‘D’you see? All day I’ve been working with Simon. No one else. They’re off bathing, or eating, or playing.’” (Golding 51).
This shows that the he stays focused while all the other boys become distracted from the task at hand of building the shelters. Ralph’s focused mind on completing the shelters kept him working and prevented him from being distracted like all the other boys. “‘When the meeting was over they’d work for five minutes then wander off…’” (Golding 51). Throughout the novel Ralph never ceases to stress the importance of the signal fire as a means of being rescued. Soon after he had been elected as chief, he focuses attention on the importance of having a signal fire and being rescued. “ ‘Now we come to the most important thing. I’ve been thinking… We want to be rescued’” (Golding 36). “‘If a ship comes near the island they may not notice us. So we must make smoke on top of the mountain. We must make a fire.’” (Golding 37). Even after Jack had started his own tribe, stole the only means of making fire from Ralph, and Ralph’s tribe consisted only of a small number of boys, Ralph still did not forget the importance of the signal fire.
“‘Just an ordinary fire. You’d think we could do that, wouldn’t you? Just a smoke signal so we can be rescued… now there’s no signal going up. Ships may be passing. “ (Golding 188)
On the contrary, Jack cannot differentiate what is important and what is not. Jack thinks that hunting is more important than being rescued, so he takes the hunters that were tending the fire to go hunting. The fire – along with the chance of being rescued – becomes extinguished as a ship passes by the island. Jack returns, and receives a deserved earful from Ralph:
“‘There was a ship. Out there. You said you’d keep the fire going and you let it out! They might have seen us. We might have gone home.’
‘The job was too much. We needed everyone.’” (Golding 74-75)
When Jack forms his new tribe, they are not concerned about being rescued, all they want to do is hunt. The ability to stay focused on what matters is important for a leader because it is the only way for progress to be made that can benefit the entire group. If a leader kept on being side tracked with small, insignificant issues, then there would be no time to resolve the big, important issues that are really important and progress. Jack becomes side tracked with his hunting and forgets the very important issue of being rescued from the island. In fact, he also makes the other boys forget about being rescued from the island, making the group suffer. Ralph on the other hand, keeps his mind focused on the most important issues – being rescued and building shelter – and does not let anything get in the way. His focused mind makes decisions that benefit the entire group, which is why he is the better leader.
Being a great leader means being considerate of other peoples’ opinions. Jack is not considerate of other people’s opinions. During a discussion about the beast, Jack says:
“‘We don’t need the conch any more. We know who ought to say things. What good did Simon do speaking, or Bill, or Walter? It’s time some people knew they’ve got to keep quiet and leave deciding things to the rest of us – ’
This shows how inconsiderate Jack is because the conch is the only thing that lets the boys communicate their thoughts and eliminating it would mean that they do not get a say in making decisions that affects them. When Jack starts another tribe, he selfishly appoints himself as the leader – his followers do not have a say as to who leads them. As leader, he does not take into consideration the thoughts and opinions of his followers. He barks out orders and everyone follows them. “‘We’ll go into the forest now and hunt.’ He turned and trotted away and after a moment they followed him obediently.” (Golding 147). Ralph is the exact opposite of Jack, since he is the one who put rules in place to allow every one to speak. “‘And another thing. We can’t have everybody talking at once. We’ll have to have ‘Hands up” like at school.’” (Golding 31). “‘I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak. He can hold it when he’s speaking.’… ‘And he won’t be interrupted. Except by me.’”(Golding 31). These rules show that Ralph actually cares what the boys have to say (why?). Being considerate, like Ralph, is very crucial to being a good leader because listening to everybody’s opinions and beliefs ensures that final decisions can be formed to benefit the entire group. Ralph’s method of considering everyone’s opinions and treating people as equals allows him to make decisions that benefit the whole group, which is why he is a better leader than Jack.
An important belief that leaders must posses is that every person is equal. Jack believes that he is far superior than anybody else on the island. When the group of boys is voting for chief at the start of the novel, Jack believes “with simple arrogance” (Golding 18) that there should be no vote and he should be appointed chief mainly because “‘I’m chapter chorister and head boy. I can sing C sharp.’”(Golding 18). Jack constantly ridiculed Piggy when they were in the same tribe and gave no thought to what Piggy said. “Piggy took the conch… ‘I don’t believe in no ghosts – ever!’ Jack was up…‘Who cares what you believe – Fatty!’”(Golding 97). “‘Then,’ went on Piggy… ‘You’re talking too much,’ said Jack Merridew. ‘Shut up, Fatty.’” (Golding 17). This shows that Jack regards Piggy as an inferior person. Ralph shows that he regards all the boys as equals by standing up for Piggy, the most vulnerable person on the island. When Jack breaks Piggy’s glasses and makes a mockery of him Ralph interferes and calls Jacks actions a “dirty trick”. “‘Now I only got one eye. Jus’ you wait –’ Jack mimicked the whine and scramble. ‘Jus’ you wait – yah!’” (Golding 76). When everyone is equal, the group benefits as a whole because people are not afraid of ridicule or persecution when they speak their minds. Their opinions can then be considered when making a decision. If decisions were made the way Jack makes them, with no consideration given to different points of view, then the decision would only benefit a select few within group. Treating people akin to the way Jack does, as “superior” and “inferior”, limits the whole group’s progress. The “superior” people would benefit while the “inferior” would suffer. This imbalance prevents the whole group from benefiting. Ralph’s belief of equality allows him to make decisions that benefit the entire group, and that is why he is the better leader over Jack.