So, I needed to write an essay for my Writing 121 class, and it had to be an analysis of a speech. I was thinking over some of the speeches I've heard recently, and then I thought to myself "these are all political! Why don't I do something different?". Then I remembered Jack's infamous "Live Together, Die Alone" speech, and this is the result. Oh, and BTW, I got a perfect score on this.

Essay #4: Live Together, Die Alone

In the TV show LOST, the character of Jack Shephard makes a speech to his fellow survivors admonishing them to work together in order to survive. This speech presents several very compelling points of evidence that encourage Jack’s audience to believe and trust him, and as can be seen later in the show, is very effective at convincing the survivors not only to band together, but to adopt Jack as their de facto leader.

Jack Shephard was one of 72 survivors of the crash of Oceanic Airlines flight 815 on a mysterious island in the South Pacific. Very early during the survivors’ inhabitance, they discover that the island is a very dangerous place when the plane’s pilot is pulled out the cockpit - where he was found by the other survivors, still strapped to his chair - and brutally killed by an unknown monster. This, along with several other mysterious, dangerous, and otherwise creepy events, leaves everyone scared and panicky, and a general mob mentality begins to descend. In the beginning of the episode in which Jack makes his speech, a young man named Boone is seen floundering in the ocean from the beach. Jack swims out and saves him, only to discover that he was trying to swim out and save a woman who had been dragged out to sea by a rip tide. Jack again swims out and brings the woman back to shore, but not before she has drowned. This event further pushes the survivors towards an anarchistic, “every man for himself” mindset, and serves as an introduction to the next big problem they have to face, which turns out to be a water shortage.

Knowing that the survivors are running out of water, Jack sets off into the jungles of this island to find a stream or lake for them to drink from. Meanwhile, Boone has taken the remaining water and hidden it, believing that he is a more capable leader than anyone else. When the others discover that all their water is gone, they frantically start searching for it, and begin to turn on one another. Boone, still trying to do the right thing, tries to bring a pregnant woman, Claire, some water, but is discovered with the water bottles on his way. As Jack finally returns to camp, having found a spring, he sees a majority of the survivors watching as some other main characters prepare to punish Boone for his “crime”. This is where Jack makes his momentous speech, and effectively seals his position as leader.

During this speech, Jack speaks to his fellow plane crash survivors as one of them. On this island, they are all strangers, and nobody knows anything about anyone else, and this lends Jack considerable credibility. If an arbitrary power had attempted to dictate this group of scared, angry people, they would have revolted against him immediately. However, Jack has the authority to tell them what to do precisely because he lacks authority. He literally is a common man on this island, and he doesn’t pretend to be anything else. His quiet confidence and assurances that the current crisis is over certainly help alleviate much of the fear going around, but the single biggest asset Jack draws from in his monologue is his “average-Joe-ness”.

Jack’s claim of “…if we can’t live together, we’re going to die alone,” is clearly supported by the fact that several of their people have been killed already, and there exists a need for clear organization, leadership, justice, and community safety – in short, a society. Jack’s speech speaks to that need inside each of the survivors to have security and safety, and this lends his words both logical credibility and emotional weight.

The fact that Jack makes his speech in part to prevent Boone’s “punishment” is important to his emotional appeal. When he says, “A woman died this morning just going for a swim and he tried to save her, and now you’re about to crucify him,” he evokes feelings of shame and fear; shame of what they were about to let happen, and fear that next it might be them who drowns or is singled out. However, Jack isn’t trying to scare anyone with this speech. The reason he brings up these instances is because he needs his fellow survivors to feel a sense of community and empathy for each other. Jack realizes that the only way for his group to continue surviving is for them to feel a need to protect each other, and he attempts to make them feel this community spirit by “guilt-tripping” them.

These feelings of together-ness aren’t shared by everyone, however. To everyone but a select few, this speech is incredibly effective in getting them to set up a permanent camp and start their own little community. The exceptions are two individuals named Sawyer and Locke. Sawyer is a very independent person, and puts of an image of someone that doesn’t care what people think about him. However, underneath the shell, it is revealed that he truly does care for his fellows just like Jack, even if he doesn’t agree with some of his decisions. The image, though, is what is important, because it allows him to blatantly disregard Jack when he deems it appropriate, and he does so on many occasions. Locke, on the other hand, holds a deep respect for Jack and his attempted position over the survivors, and even encourages this implicit bid for leadership. However, Locke doesn’t consider himself to be subject to the rules of everyone else, and this comes to a head much later in the show when Locke actually leaves Jack’s camp.

Aside from these few instances of special people who disregard conventional leadership, Jack’s speech is very effective in convincing the survivors of their need for community and leadership. Even though Jack doesn’t attempt to, he implicitly requests that he become the leader of the crash survivors and that they band together as one, and they comply with an almost abnormal speed and efficiency. His blend of a sincere plea and non-authoritative tone, as well as his logical sense combine to create a very simple, practical, sensible, and convincing argument for banding together.

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