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Jack Merridew
Jack Merridew
Jack in the 1963 movie, portrayed by Tom Chapin
Vital statistics
Gender Male
Nationality English (book and 1963 film)

American (1990 film)

Health Decent
Status Alive
Location in Book The Island
Jack Merridew is the main antagonist in Sir William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies. He battled through civilization, morality, and order even when it resulted to his descend to madness, painting himself dramatically.

Described to be physically unattractive but played by Tom Chapin, Jack is the tallest out of the boys, bony, but strongly built, sandy red-haired, freckled, and blue-eyed.

Jack is the only character in any version of the story to have his first and last name given; all the other boys are known by first names only, or by a nickname in Piggy's case.

Character

The strong-willed, egomaniacal Jack is the novel’s primary representative of the instinct of savagery, violence, and the desire for power—in short, the anti-thesis of Ralph. From the beginning of the novel, Jack desires power above all other things. He is furious when he loses the election to Ralph and continually pushes the boundaries of his subordinate role in the group. Early on, Jack retains the sense of moral propriety and behaviour that society instilled in him—in fact, in school, he was the leader of the choir-boys.

The first time he encounters a pig, he is unable to kill it. But Jack soon becomes obsessed with hunting and devotes himself to the task, painting his face like a barbarian and giving himself over to bloodlust. The more savage Jack becomes, the more he is able to control the rest of the group. Indeed, apart from Ralph, Simon, and Piggy, the group largely follows Jack in casting off moral restraint and embracing violence and savagery. Jack’s love of authority and violence are intimately connected, as both enable him to feel powerful and exalted. By the end of the novel, Jack has learned to use the boys’ fear of the beast to control their behaviour—a reminder of how religion and superstition can be manipulated as instruments of power.

In any version of the story, Jack is brash, arrogant, and hates listening to anyone except himself. He is selective about rules; when someone else came up with the rule, Jack chafes and rebels against it, but when he is the one making the rules, Jack will gladly use draconian methods to ensure they are followed. He is not so cold or sadistic as Roger is; for Jack, sheer ambition and hunger for power is what matters. Jack does nothing to curb Roger's behavior and increasingly relies on Roger's cruelty to eliminate anyone who gets in his way.

Jack Merridew was inspired by the character of Jack Martin.

Lord of the Flies: 1963 Movie

In the 1963 film adaptation, Jack is portrayed by Tom Chapin. He leads the school choir, which lends him his early authority, and never takes well to Ralph being voted as leader instead of him. In this version of the story, no one follows Jack at first when he declares he is leaving to form his own camp, and he can be briefly seen struggling with himself as he walks away. Throughout the film, Jack speaks in an elegant, dignified manner, even after leading the other boys in a descent into savagery.

Lord of the Flies: 1990 Movie

Jack Merridew (1990)

Jack Merridew in the 1990 movie, portrayed by Chris Furrh.

In the 1990 film adaptation, Jack is portrayed by Chris Furrh. He is sixteen, two years older than Ralph, and has blond hair. Like all the other boys in this version of the story, Jack is American and attends an unnamed American military boarding school. He wears the rank insignia for cadet first lieutenant, making him the third-ranked cadet on the island, after Cadet Lieutenant Colonel Ralph and Cadet Captain Roger.

Jack in this version speaks faster than his British counterpart in the 1963 film does, and more often. He swears violently, more than anyone else in the film. He is vain, arrogant, and immature, but as he becomes leader of the Hunters and then ousts Ralph as the Chief, he quickly adopts a brutal and authoritarian style of leadership. In this version of the story, several boys leave with Jack immediately when he declares he will form his own camp. Jack relies on Roger throughout the film as a right-hand-man and enforcer.

Jack is visibly shocked when Roger kills Piggy, but does nothing about it. Instead, he drives Ralph away and soon sets most of the island on fire in an effort to force Ralph out of hiding. When U.S. Marines land just as the boys are about to kill Ralph, Jack, like the others, is completely surprised and unsure of what to do.

Jack's last name is never said in the 1990 film, or is his cadet rank actually referred to. He quickly dispenses with his uniform and any formalities of military rank, in any case, and all the boys simply refer to and address him as "Jack", or as "Chief" once he has overthrown Ralph and taken charge as the new leader.

Gallery

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RalphJack MerridewPiggySamnericSimonRoger