No Clear Hero


The idea of a hero is a complicated one and there are several possible interpretations in Lord of the Flies. In action films the hero is usually the 'good guy' even if he (or she) is quite violent. Action heroes are strong and tough and think quickly when there is a problem. In novels the hero can simply be the main character of the story, though usually we feel some sympathy for him or her as well. Sometimes the hero is someone quite unexpected, who manages to do or say things that earn our respect and admiration. In Lord of the Flies there is no clear hero but there are three possible candidates for the description, Jack, Ralph and Simon. 

Jack could have been the action hero of the novel. He is strong and tough and usually thinks quickly when there is a problem. When he first appears he is the leader of the choir and he has the ability to keep them under control and make them do as he wants. Later on he becomes the leader of the hunters and is a good example to his followers. Jack is also physically brave and when he, Ralph and Roger went off to hunt the beast "Jack led the way". Unfortunately, Jack is not good at co-operating with Ralph and Piggy and his obsession with hunting leads to the fire going out when a ship is sighted. When the three boys mistake the dead airman for the beast, Jack takes decisive action but does not really face up to the problem. He takes the boys to a part of the island that is safer and tries to buy off the beast by leaving the pig's head as a sort of offering. Jack thus has many qualities required to be a hero but when he is in control he bullies the boys and is partly responsible for the deaths of Simon and Piggy. He is not deliberately evil but his actions often have evil consequences, so Jack cannot really be considered a hero in the novel. 

  
Ralph starts off well in the novel. He is the first person we meet on the island and he becomes leader by popular vote. He does not seem ambitious like Jack and at first he makes genuine attempts to run life on the island properly. Ralph is brave. He leads the expedition to explore the unknown island, he goes off to face the beast, and when the going gets tough he does not just give up. Ralph is also honest. Unlike Piggy, he admits that the death of Simon is "murder" and that he was partly involved. Another reason for considering Ralph the hero of the book is that he is at the centre of the story. The novel begins and ends with his views and we spend more time with Ralph than with any other single character. Ralph therefore qualifies as the hero of the novel in many ways, but he also has many faults. He is not a strong leader and is unable to make sure that the huts are built or the fire is watched. Most importantly, he is unable to convince the boys that the beast doesn't exist. By the end of the novel he has murdered one friend and failed to prevent the death of another. 




Simon seems an unlikely hero at first. He has fits and is regarded as a little strange by the other members of the choir. But, like Jack and Ralph, Simon shows physical courage. He is chosen to go on the first exploration of the island and he is the only boy brave enough to climb the mountain to discover the dead airman. He is genuinely kind to the little'uns and helpful on projects like building the huts. When Simon has his conversation with the Lord of the Flies he understands what is happening on the island and dies trying to bring a message of hope to the boys. Unfortunately, his message doesn't get through. Simon must therefore be considered the closest thing the novel has to a hero. He wins the respect of the reader but it is difficult to see in him some other qualities we normally expect of a hero. 




Golding took the names of Jack and Ralph from Coral Island (where the Simon character is called Peterkin). In that novel the three boys are allowed to be heroes, but Golding wanted to show the reality of the modern world in his story. All the time the boys are acting like savages the adults, who should know better, are engaged in an atomic war. The airman beast is a sign of this conflict and his appearance is the final straw that destroys the society the boys were trying to build. In such a pessimistic novel it is not surprising that there is no clear hero.