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The battle between Jack and Ralph is the main conflict in Lord of the Flies. A peaceful democracy, represented by Ralph, and a vicious dictatorship, represented by Jack, are at odds in the struggle for control of the island. Although Jack initially reluctantly accepts Ralph's leadership, both boys have the potential to lead the entire group. As the plot progresses, their rivalry grows and intensifies until it becomes a fight to the death. Boys who identify with Ralph, Jack, or both of them reflect many morals and facets of human nature. Ralph stands for decency, duty, reason, and protecting the weak, while Jack is a symbol of violence, cruelty, mob rule, tyranny, and government by fear. The narrative seems to be demonstrating to us that humanity's violent and barbaric urges are stronger than civilization, which is intrinsically fragile, as we watch Ralph's control over the other boys wane and shatter until he is expelled and persecuted. A global conflict highlights the idea that civilization itself is being threatened by the forces of violence, even though Ralph is saved at the last second by a figure who stands for civilization in the form of the navy officer.

The book, which is set against the backdrop of a world war, is both a warning against the specific effects of nuclear armament and a deeper exploration of human nature and the unstable influence of man in nature. The novel gives the specific account of a small group battling nature and one another a sense of inevitability and universality by narrating the story via the experience of young boys separated from the rest of civilization and making few references to the world outside the boundaries of the island. Golding crafts a struggle that appears to inevitably result in the demise of one of the characters but is instead resolved by the other by using the two major characters as symbols of two different social ideologies. In this way, the previous incidents serve as an allegory for the more important and deadly deeds of a man outside the island.

The inciting incident for the story occurs off-stage, as the book begins right after the plane crash that puts the lads on the island. When Ralph and Piggy first appear to the reader, they are described as being physically opposite each other and as being graceful and attractive. The guys find a conch and use it to call the other crash survivors, introducing us to Jack, who is already in charge of a group of boys and seems confident. Even though "the most obvious leader was Jack," the lads elect Ralph to head the group in part due to Ralph's possession of the conch. Ralph takes over leadership, and Jack reluctantly accepts. The two become friends as they explore the island together. Ralph will be in charge of communication and working to get them saved, while Jack will be in charge of hunting for meat. Jack asserts himself after the humiliation of losing the vote for chief by slamming his knife into a tree and announcing that he will be the hunter. For the remainder of the novel, the two will be engaged in intensifying struggle over which of these two positions is more crucial.

The novel's escalating action occurs throughout the chapters that follow, as each child on the island begins to define his place in the newly constituted society and Jack and Ralph come into sharper conflict over what the group should prioritize and where they should put their energies. Ralph is adamant that a signal fire must be kept going at all times in case any ships pass the island. He also thinks that watching the fire, creating shelters, and gathering fruit are all best done in groups. As Jack grows to love hunting, he kills a pig while letting the signal fire go out, which causes a fight with Ralph because Ralph saw a ship pass while the fire was out. The younger lads on the island express rising anxiety about a monster they think stalks them at night. The boys become more afraid when a paratrooper crashes onto the mountaintop in a scene that the reader sees but none of the boys are present for. As a result, they start chanting "kill the beast" instead of "kill the pig," which makes them more open to Jack's suggestion that killing pigs will help them overcome their fears.

The tension between Jack and Ralph reaches a breaking point after the boys kill Simon in a fit of ferocious excitement and fear. The book's climax occurs when Jack and his tribe steal Piggy's glasses and kill Piggy when he goes to get them back. Ralph and Piggy believe Jack's tribe is after the conch when they steal the glasses, but Jack realizes the conch has lost most of its symbolic significance by this stage and that the glasses, which are needed to start a fire, are the real valuables. The value of the conch is declining, indicating that democracy and due process are no longer valid and that the lads' flimsy society is crumbling. The following day, when Piggy and Ralph are attempting to collect Piggy's glasses, a tribesman from Jack's tribe lets loose a massive boulder, which smashes the conch and kills Piggy. Jack's dictatorial kingdom is established as democracy is destroyed. Ralph runs from Jack and his tribe, who have become bloodthirsty and more and more vicious under his destructive influence, realizing that his life is in immediate danger.

Up until now, the lads have managed to preserve a precarious equilibrium, with Ralph controlling the means of starting the fire and the conch's symbolic significance counteracting Jack's readiness to use violence. Ralph is helpless once this equilibrium is upset and Jack has control over the mechanisms for maintaining the fire and maintaining the boys' subservience to his authority. Jack is willing to exert external pressure on boys who disobey him and leads by force rather than persuasion. This is in contrast to Ralph, who anticipates that the boys will be intrinsically motivated to work together. Ralph is not a threat, but the lads pursue him across the island out of dread of Jack's wrath and a sense of gang loyalty. Even the Samneric twins, who at first supported Ralph, surrender to Jack after he tortures them to learn where Ralph is hiding. To get Ralph out of the bush, the lads start a fire, which alerts a passing ship. The boys become aware of the atrocities they have experienced and contributed to when the ship's officer returns to civilization and comes ashore. The lads are saved but left scarred by their glances into "the depths of man's heart," and the book concludes with the island destroyed.


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