Essay Discussing Development and Importance of The Relationship of the Two Principle Characters in William Golding's Lord of the Flies.
On a deserted island populated only by pre and pubescent boys, Jack and Ralph share a strange union as the two most powerful and most separated entities of the group. In Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Jack and Ralph's childhood antagonism develops throughout the story, changing with the first assembly, Jack's carelessness and the going out of the fire, and the death of Piggy.
Ralph and Jack are strangers when they first meet after Ralph blows the conch. Their first words are tense, as Jack sizes Ralph up and demands the supreme position of power among the tribe. A vote among the assembly negates Jack's plea for chieftainship, bestowing it upon Ralph instead. This rebuttal threatens Jack's ego and image, but he is happily redeemed by Ralph's offer of being in charge of his choir turned "hunters". This subtle understanding of social placement and power mends any initial injustices between the two. As Golding relates it: "Jack and Ralph smiled at each other with shy liking." (1954, p. 23)
After the meeting, the tension between the two characters becomes that of new friendship rather than hostility. Beyond their smiles, Jack and Ralph (together with Simon) conduct a search of the island.
One of the issues difficult to avoid when reading (and, indeed, writing) a novel about adolescent boys on an island, alone without supervision, is sexuality. While coming of age and heterosexual lust is touched upon during the killing of the sow, homosexuality is more readily portrayed within the triangle of Piggy, Ralph, and Jack. Golding portrays Ralph and Jack as comrades or 'partners in crime' initially, but is not hesitant to inject notes of physical and emotional intimacy, as well as vaguely homoerotic gestures or acts, into their friendship with statements such as: "Jack laid his (robe) on the trunk by Ralph. His grey shorts were sticking to him with sweat. Ralph glanced at them admiringly." (p. 23) and "Jack, left on his feet, looked uncertainly at Ralph who smiled and patted the log. Jack sat down." (p.33)
Such a high level of comfort and admiration as is initially shown between the two suggests feelings deeper than simple friendship, hinging on unknown and unwelcome feelings of confusion and sexual desire.
The true turning point, the defining 'split' between the two boys, is when Jack's need for hunting allows the fire to go out. This rift in priorities also foreshadows the different ideals the two will come to represent within the novel, Jack standing for savagery and chaos, and Ralph for order and civilization. The true beginning of a rift between the two is illustrated by Golding as "So Ralph asserted his chieftainship and could not have chose a better way if he had thought about it for days. Against this weapon, so indefinable and so effective, Jack was powerless and raged without knowing why. … They were on different sides of a high barrier." (p. 73)
While the fire is an immense turning point in Jack and Ralph's exploits, it is Piggy who provides an interesting catalyst. Jack's dislike of Piggy is blindingly apparent (and vice-versa). However, returning to the concept of developing sexuality, one wonders whether the mutual dislike is due to character or jealousy. Both are intent on being close to Ralph (Jack especially toward the beginning of the book, and Piggy toward the end). Jack blatantly mocks Ralph's coddling of Piggy with lines like "That's right- favor Piggy as you always do-" (p. 91) and "That's right. Keep Piggy out of danger." (p. 101) Both statements suggest hostility and envy on Jack's part. He appears to resent the attention bestowed on Piggy, most especially by Ralph, and tries to counteract this by drawing attention to himself in various and intrusive ways, whether consciously or unconsciously.
It is because of this conflict that Piggy's death is especially poignant. While Jack does not instigate, order, or conduct Piggy's death in anyway, he certainly does not object to it. "'See? See? That's what you'll get! I meant that! There isn't a tribe for you anymore!' … Viciously, with full intention, he (Jack) hurled his spear at Ralph." (p. 181)
Jack's frustration and aggression seem almost misdirected. Without Piggy, who is his true opposite, Jack turns to the next in the line of opposition and lands on Ralph. Are the two really enemies? It's hard to say 'no' when the violence and conflict between the two is so strong. But it is often said that there is a thin line between love and hate (and good and evil, for that matter) and it seems apparent that Jack and Ralph are walking this line. Their hatred cannot be pure hatred, because they began the adventure as friends.
"Then there was that indefinable connection between himself (Ralph) and Jack; who therefore would never leave him alone; never." (p. 184)
Even Ralph recognizes the ties binding him and Jack together, just as Hell is bound to Heaven. Whether Ralph understands them is not important, since the connection is as undefined as the existence of belief and religion. The importance is not in purpose, but in the connection itself. Whether it is romantic or sexual, violent or antagonistic, the relationship between the two helps to delineate the structure of the novel itself and the symbolism within it.