Le Véritable Saint Genest


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Jean de Rotrou

1. “There was the brilliant world of hunting, tactics, fierce exhilaration, skill; and there was the world of longing and baffled common-sense.”—chapter 4

This line articulates the two worlds inhabited by the boys on the island. Jack leads the former, while Ralph represents the latter. They are, in a sense, opposed to one another. Jack’s group seeks mainly glory through survival, whereas Ralph’s group seeks salvation by means of a kind of reason. Neither world is fully prepared for the obstacles that arise within it. Jack’s hunters lack the ability to control themselves and keep themselves from harm. Ralph’s group lacks the ability to give the boys a reason to live nobly.

2. “The three boys stood in the darkness, striving unsuccessfully to convey the majesty of adult life.”—chapter 5

The three boys are Ralph, Piggy, and Simon. They are the only three who do not follow Jack after Jack assumes power over the other boys by declaring his intention to hunt the beast and kill it. Ralph, Piggy, and Simon have all shown some elements of maturity: Ralph in his somewhat sensible leadership; Piggy in his respect for order; Simon in his quiet, reflective solitude and hermitage. Yet the “majesty of adult life” that they need to lead the others is undermined by Jack’s juvenile approach toward their plight: To him it is an adventure, one in which violence is of little concern; one in which rules need not apply, and in which anarchy and bloodshed are merely a step away. Unlike the three boys verging on maturity and reason, Jack has tapped into the one thing needed to control the mob: emotion.

3. “They were black and iridescent green and without number; and in front of Simon, the Lord of the Flies hung on his stick and grinned. At last Simon gave up and looked back; saw the white teeth and dim eyes, the blood—and his gaze was held by that ancient, inescapable recognition.”—chapter 8

It is from these lines that the title of the novel is taken. The Lord of the Flies refers to an evil spirit manifested in Jack through his rebellion and superstitious peace offering to the imaginary “beast” on the mountain. Jack’s rebellion, superstition, and violent impulsiveness are not innocent but treacherous, as Simon understands when he gazes upon the sow’s head that symbolizes the evil spirit now unleashed on the island. Jack, who will no longer be restrained by civil authority and who has also now submitted to an unholy spirit (with the sacrificial slaughter of the sow), represents the classical “non serviam” of Satan—“I will not serve.”

4. “He was safe from shame or self-consciousness behind the mask of his paint and could look at each of them in turn.”—chapter 8

This line describes Jack after abandoning Ralph’s group, shedding his clothes, masking himself in paint, and offering the head of the slaughtered sow to the “beast” on the mountain. He has cloaked himself in a kind of new paganism, born out of his rebellious spirit as well as his fear of the “thing” that haunts the island. This spirit that invests him is likened by Golding to an evil spirit. It may also be likened to a Faustian spirit in the sense that it gives Jack a certain power and a sense of superiority over the others: It covers his fear just as the paint covers his nakedness. It does not, however, transform him into a man or into the kind of reflecting and mature leader that Ralph has become. Therefore, Jack’s boldness may be deemed false.

5. “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!”

This chant appears throughout book. It is the chant of Jack’s hunters and serves a number of purposes. It binds the hunters together in a kind of ritualistic way. It serves a dramatic purpose in the recounting of the tale of the hunt. In the latter half of the novel, it serves as a kind of protection against the breaking storm (both literally and metaphorically). Jack uses it as a means of control and to provide the boys who follow him with something to do. It also signifies the savage nature of Jack and his so-called choir. They have no desire to transcend their surroundings or to strive to improve their natures. Their attempts to master and control nature are limited to bullying, petty thievery, hooliganism, and violence. The chant symbolizes the bloody and base creed in which they truly believe.

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