Rivalry More Like Sexual Tension, or The Jalph Essay
I wrote this mess for my English class and turned it in enjoy
The concept of human relationships has existed for thousands of years, yet still continues to fascinate people in real life and in literature. There are several types of relationships but all vary in form and habitually appear in unexpected places. In William Golding’s 1954 novel, Lord of the Flies, a group of boys crash land on a remote island and are forced to form their own society while waiting for rescue. Throughout the book, two of the main characters, Jack and Ralph, share an unusual connection constantly ranging from more than friendly liking to sexual tension to unrequited feelings. Their relationship culminates in a bitter power struggle ultimately causing the downfall of an attachment which could have evolved far beyond its final destination. Jack and Ralph are an ill-fated young couple who illustrate the effects of a certain aspect of human nature- the survival instinct- on interpersonal relationships.
Jack and Ralph originally have an amount of chemistry going beyond what is considered “friendly.” When they first meet, they look at each other with “a shy liking” (23). Both boys, specifically Ralph, prove themselves completely comfortable around others, yet once they interact with each other, they suddenly become shy. Although most of their association bases on emotional rather than physical attraction, Ralph briefly demonstrates how impressed he is by Jack during their first meeting; “[Jack’s] grey shorts were sticking to him with sweat. Ralph glanced at them admiringly,” (23). Jack and Ralph have outgoing, commanding personalities, and from the beginning they seem evenly matched, with plenty of potential for evolution. For the first few weeks, they tend to fumble, blush, and stutter their way through conversations with each other. Eventually, they establish a cooperative bond which consists of Jack leading the hunters and serving as a confidence booster for Ralph, while Ralph leads the government and keeps Jack in check to the best of his ability. The connection between the boys continues to develop as they spend more time together. Although their ideologies differ, the situation has not yet become dire. They mostly have the same goal of keeping the rules intact, and Jack still respects Ralph, as stated by Piggy. “You’re all right- he respects you” (93). For his part, Ralph holds Jack in high esteem, even thinking Jack Merridew the person is equal to the high status of chief (93). Part of Ralph’s character includes valuing people over power, which leaves him confused and shattered after Jack, motivated by a thirst for power, finally breaks off to start his own tribe.
The departure of Jack from the main tribe and the formation of a new dictatorship drastically alters the bond between Jack and Ralph and stretches their relationship past the breaking point. Immediately following Jack’s split from the group, Ralph is devastated. He sits in the same spot the rest of the day, ignores people when they talk to him, and repeats “He’ll come back. When the sun goes down, he’ll come,” (128). Ralph, always the optimistic one on the topic of rescue, says to Piggy, “There’s no help, Piggy. Nothing to be done” (128). Only when offered food and comforted by his friends does he perk up, and eventually Ralph becomes more reliant on Piggy the way he was on Jack. Although the closer friendship with Piggy helps Ralph, the dynamic has shifted. Piggy never becomes a true replacement for Jack, and Ralph’s feelings for Piggy remain platonic. More interesting still is Ralph’s excusing of Simon’s murder and Piggy’s stolen glasses.When the four boys go to Castle Rock in an attempt to recover the glasses, Ralph’s priority is on possibly talking it out rather than going by force. While fighting, he holds back for a time, and after Samneric’s capture, he still tries to appeal to Jack’s “better side,” despite its uselessness. “Ralph cried out hopelessly against the black and green mask, ‘Jack!’” (179) It takes Piggy’s death and Jack stabbing Ralph with a spear for Ralph to finally realize there is no hope of bringing Jack back to the rational side. Though a logical person, Ralph is not immune to the effects of emotion blindsiding him, and his continued feelings toward Jack allow him to hold on to the idea Jack might be above killing him, even after the events of Castle Rock. Ralph never quite abandons his side of the “indefinable connection between himself and Jack” (184). Like before, Ralph mostly appears confused over what he did to agitate Jack so greatly. He says to Samneric: “What have I done? I liked him-and I wanted us to be rescued” (188) after they tell him of Jack’s plan to hunt and kill. Jack and Ralph had a connection deeper than a mere power struggle or usual friendship, but their relationship follows the same downwards path as human nature throughout the novel.
Despite their potential, Jack and Ralph’s relationship falls apart due to a key part of human nature and the survival instinct. The factors composing the instinct include brutal selfishness which allows the person to eliminate any obstacle to survival. These obstacles include, but not limited to, pain, moral values, or even people and objects the survivor once considered valuable. The survival instinct served a critical role in destroying Jack and Ralph’s conceivable relationship. As displayed through his behavior and attitude, Jack’s instinct kicked in much earlier than Ralph’s. While Ralph manages to stay rational and calm for the majority of the time on the island, Jack falls prey to inner brutality and greed. Their ideas of what defines survival differ as well. Jack’s definition is being chief, ruling with complete power, and staying on the island. As a result of his power desire, Jack stops seeing Ralph as a person; instead, he views him as an opponent on his course to survival. From the point on, the survival instinct takes control and negates most attraction he has toward Ralph in favor of overthrowing the latter’s chiefship. Not all feeling vanishes immediately, as Jack doesn’t try to eliminate Ralph despite given opportunities, such as the late night raid on Ralph’s camp and the fight at Castle Rock. But once Ralph’s resources are completely nullified, Jack sees his chance and goes in for the final kill, effectively ending any remaining sentiment he had for Ralph. Ralph’s definition of survival, on the other hand, is a cooperative relationship and rescue. His more rational outlook keep the more primal part of the survival instinct from factoring into his decision making, therefore harboring affection toward Jack for longer. He continues to see Jack as a reasonable person for the majority of the novel; however, the instinct finally takes effect in the last chapter and shreds most feelings to ribbons. After Ralph, on the run from the tribe, has lost everything, he stops seeing “the savages,” as he calls his former tribe mates, as humans and does not hesitate to hurt them as they become his greatest survival obstacles (195). Interestingly enough, he continues to refer to Jack by name, and does not address him as “the chief” as everyone else does, as if making one last effort to convince himself Jack is somehow still human. Only once the arrival of the naval ship guarantees Ralph safety does he stop calling him by name, instead identifying him as “a little boy” (201). While it could be argued the rescue officially ends whatever last shreds of connection remain between Jack and Ralph, “boy” is a distinctly human classification, signifying Ralph still sees Jack as human to some extent; therefore, the bond may not have completely died. Even so, distancing himself from Jack and never seeing him again once they return home would be the rational choice. Ralph has proved a logical thinker, and human and good are not synonymous. However, an experience such as the one they have both gone through leaves lasting scars, and it proves nearly impossible to imagine Ralph ever fully leaving behind Jack Merridew.
While the survival instinct is not inherently dark or light, it can tear apart or neutralize any potential compatibility, as previously discussed. From their initial meeting, Jack and Ralph created a connection plausibly crossing from friendship into a romantic relationship. Yet, once the survival instinct takes hold, the relationship swiftly deteriorates to a one-sided attachment and ends with next to nothing. The descending spiral between Jack and Ralph depicts the ramifications of a part of human nature and the disastrous result on personal relationships.