Study Guide

Lord of the Flies Power

Advertisement - Guide continues below


Chapter 1

The suffusion drained away from Jack's face. Ralph waved again for silence.

"Jack's in charge of the choir. They can be—what do you want them be?"


Jack and Ralph smiled at each other with shy liking. The rest began to talk eagerly. (1.254-257)

Check out how Ralph gets Jack on his side by sharing power. He's set up to be a good leader, taking into account the needs and desires of his group. Too bad it's not going to last.

“You're no good on a job like this.”

“All the same –”

“We don’t want you,” said Jack, flatly. “Three’s enough.” (1.274-276)

While Ralph and Jack both assert authority over Piggy, Ralph at least tries to explain his reasoning (the mark of a good leader), whereas Jack brings personal insult to the matter (the mark of a bad leader).


"Shut up," said Ralph absently. He lifted the conch. "Seems to me we ought to have a chief to decide things."

"A chief! A chief!"

"I ought to be chief," said Jack with simple arrogance, "because I'm chapter chorister and head boy. I can sing C sharp." (1.229-231)

Sure, bet that C sharp really comes in handy when you're trying to keep a group in order. Jack thinks he should have the power because he's always had it. There's nothing special about him; he doesn't have any particular talent for leading. He's just arrogant. And sometimes that's enough.

Chapter 2

"A fire! Make a fire!"

At once half the boys were on their feet. Jack clamored among them, the conch forgotten.

"Come on! Follow me!"

The space under the palm trees was full of noise and movement. Ralph was on his feet too, shouting for quiet, but no one heard him. All at once the crowd swayed toward the island and was gone—following Jack. (2.120-123)

Oops. Ralph's moment at the top of the food chain was pretty brief. It's only chapter two, and Jack's populist tactics are already more undermining the rule of law.

Chapter 4

"I painted my face—I stole up. Now you eat—all of you—and I—" (4.191)

Jack yells this right after he throws a hunk of meat at Simon. (Gross.) And, you know? We love Ralph and all, but Jack isn't exactly wrong. He did get the meat, and it's a powerful sign of leadership. If this were a real island tribe, maybe Jack should be the leader. But it's not. It's a group of little boys whose priority really should be getting off the island—and that means the right man for the job is Ralph.

Henry was a bit of a leader this afternoon, because the other two were Percival and Johnny, the smallest boys on the island […].

Roger and Maurice came out of the forest […]. Roger led the way straight through the [sand] castles, kicking them over, burying the flowers, scattering the chosen stones. Maurice followed, laughing, and added to the destruction. (4.7-8)

Roger is a schoolyard bully whose power comes from brute force. In the movies, the smart scrappy kids always end up beating the bully in the end. But does that happen in real life? Without rules to keep him in check, he's going to rise to the top. Although, note that he never makes it all the way to the top—he seems to be second in command. If the naval officer hadn't shown up, would he have eventually overthrown Jack?


Ralph pushed Piggy to one side.

"I was chief, and you were going to do what I said." (4.132-133)

Uh oh. This is basically the equivalent of Ralph saying, "But it's not fair." If you have a sibling, you know how well that works. (Not at all.)

Chapter 5

Jack's face swam near him.

"And you shut up! Who are you, anyway? Sitting there telling people what to do. You can't hunt, you can't sing—"

"I'm chief. I was chosen."

"Why should choosing make any difference? Just giving orders that don't make any sense—" (5.238-241)

In case you haven't gotten it by now, Golding spells it out for us: Jack represents an autocratic government, where power is taken; and Ralph represents democratic governments, where power is given.

Chapter 6

Something deep in Ralph spoke for him.

"I'm chief. I'll go. Don't argue." (6.155)

Notice that Ralph isn't the one agreeing to go look for the beast; it's the chief inside of him. He's a good example of how power can actually make you better. If you know you have people depending on you, and if you take that responsibility seriously, then power can be a positive force.

Chapter 8

“I’m warning you. I’m going to get angry. D’you see? You’re not wanted. Understand? We are going to have fun on this island. Understand? We are going to have fun on this island! So don’t try it on, my poor misguided boy, or else–”

Simon found he was looking into a vast mouth. There was blackness within, a blackness that spread.

“–Or else,” said the Lord of the Flies, “we shall do you, see? Roger and Maurice and Robert and Bill and Piggy and Ralph. Do you. See?” (8.345-349)

The Lord of the Flies derives power through intimidation.


“Who thinks Ralph oughtn’t to be chief?”

He looked expectantly at the boys ranged around, who had frozen. Under the palms there was deadly silence.

“Hands up?” said Jack strongly, “whoever wants Ralph not to be chief?”

The silence continued, breathless and heavy and full of shame. Slowly the red drained from Jack’s cheeks, then came back with a painful rush. He licked his lips and turned his head at an angle, so that his gaze avoided the embarrassment of linking with another’s eye.

“How many think –”

His voice trailed off. The hands that held the conch shook. He cleared his throat, and spoke loudly.

“All right then.”

He laid the conch with great care in the grass at his feet. The humiliating tears were running from the corner of each eye.

“I’m not going to play any longer. Not with you.” (8.67-75)

This quote actually causes us (the reader) to feel sorry for Jack. Passages like this are important to remind us that the boys really are young children: they get embarrassed, they cry, and they throw temper tantrums. When we are hit in the face with the boys’ humanity, we are that much more disturbed by the horrors that follow.

Chapter 9

Jack spoke.

"Give me a drink."

Henry brought him a shell and he drank, watching Piggy and Ralph over the jagged rim. Power lay in the brown swell of his forearms: authority sat on his shoulder and chattered in his ear like an ape. (9.52-54)

Ralph uses his power to build signal fires and try to get the littluns looked after; Jack uses it to have people fetch him drinks. Enough said.

Chapter 11

Roger edged past the chief, only just avoiding pushing him with his shoulder. The yelling ceased, and Samneric lay looking up in quiet terror. Roger advanced upon them as one wielding a nameless authority. (11.231)

Elected officials can get voted out of office; autocratic rulers get forced out of office—and they're lucky if they survive. When Roger just barely avoids pushing Jack, we get the feeling that there's another power showdown on the way, and it's not going to be pretty.

Chapter 12

Her bows [were] hauled up and held by two ratings. In the stern sheets another rating held a sub-machine gun. (12.211)

The desire for power and the taking of power by violent means is not limited to the island.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...