Leadership in Lord of the Flies: Analysis & Quotes

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  • 0:04 Leadership
  • 0:43 Ralph, the Elected Leader
  • 2:15 Jack, the…
  • 3:58 Piggy, the Background Leader
  • 5:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

There are a number of ways a person can be a leader. In this lesson, you'll learn about the different types of leadership in 'Lord of the Flies,' and see how leadership is represented by different characters.

Leadership

Think about any groups you've been in that had a leader. Maybe a captain of a football or a debate team, or a club with a president. How did that person become the leader? Were they elected? Did they choose themselves to be the leader? Or were they appointed based on skill?

There are a number of different ways a person can become a leader, or show leadership skills. William Golding's Lord of the Flies, is about a group of boys stranded on an island and vying for power. In this group, there are three main types of leaders: elected, self-appointed, and background, and there's one main character to represent each type.

Ralph, the Elected Leader

The character that represents elected leadership is Ralph. The boys gather together for an assembly at the very beginning of the novel, and it's at this assembly that Ralph is elected as leader, almost unanimously. He's not elected on the basis of merit, but mostly based on the fact that he was the one to blow the conch that called everyone to the meeting. However, he turns out to have some skill as a leader, or at least as someone people will initially listen to.

Ralph's focus is long-term, as a leader's focus often is. He wants to be rescued, and his main focus is on that goal. His very first act as leader is to figure out the best way to do this. He states, 'Listen, everybody. I've got to have time to think things out. I can't decide what to do straight off. If this isn't an island we might be rescued straight away. So we've got to decide if this is an island.'

Once they decide it really is an island by exploring, his main focus becomes keeping a fire going. They build a fire at the top of a mountain to increase its chance of being seen.

Throughout the story, even when the main power shifts to Jack, Ralph continues to hold on to the idea of rescue, and to try and keep this fire going. The demand to keep the fire going versus just having fun and doing other things is one major difference between Ralph and Jack. As Ralph puts it, 'The trouble was, if you were a chief you had to think, you had to be wise.' As a result, he was always thinking of the future.

Jack, the Self-Appointed Leader

The second type of leadership in Lord of the Flies is self-appointed leadership, which is someone who takes power for themselves rather than being elected. Self-appointed leadership is what we see with the character Jack.

From the start he wants to be in charge. He starts out in charge of the choir, who eventually become the hunters. At the first assembly, when they're choosing a chief, he comments, 'I ought to be chief. . . because I'm chapter chorister and head boy.'

He's not elected, but Ralph puts him in charge of the hunters, and for a while Jack is content with this. Before long, though, he becomes restless, and starts reacting against Ralph's authority. After one such incident, we see this explicitly: 'Ralph sighed, sensing the rising antagonism, understanding that this was how Jack felt as soon as he ceased to lead.'

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