Lord of the Flies by William Golding

(No Series)

Lord of the Flies remains as provocative today as when it was first published in 1954, igniting passionate debate with its startling, brutal portrait of human nature. Though critically acclaimed, it was largely ignored upon its initial publication. Yet soon it became a cult favorite among both students and literary critics who compared it to J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye in its influence on modern thought and literature.

Labeled a parable, an allegory, a myth, a morality tale, a parody, a political treatise, even a vision of the apocalypse, Lord of the Flies has established itself as a true classic.

Written in the afterword:

The theme for LORD OF THE FLIES is described by Golding as follows (in the same publicity questionnaire): "The theme is an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature. The moral is that the shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system however apparently logical or respectable. The whole book is symbolic in nature except...." - and here I end the quote because it provides spoilers for the ending of the novel. (spoilers after review in spoiler tags if curious for the rest)

After I was 80% or so through with this, I started wondering about why it was such a commonly chosen book required for school reading. Did the teachers and administration mistakenly assume it would somehow drive home the point that children need adults to remind them of right and wrong, right and fair, honest and true? I would hope that no adult would assume children would get that moral lesson from this text, when we know the truth ourselves, and it is this: that perhaps a group of adults in mixed company, who suddenly faced no law or consequence of action, would be much more terrifying on an island than a group of children.

Maybe they choose the book to show how important society and law can be to keep things in order and not let the wildness take over, although the author seems to disagree with this ideology. He says that despite a logical, respectable system, it can depend on the nature of the individual.

I suppose this book would have been downright boring had the group been comprised of likeminded pacifist individuals who wanted to do coconut shell tea parties over a fire while content munching on the island berries.

Instead of that pretty picture, we get a mix of boys who are savages at heart, intent on killing pigs on the island for meat....but really just because they want to kill something. At the heart of it is how one bad seed leads others to corrupt growth, tainting the entire group and turning everyone against each other.

The one lone person with sense was the most bullied, nicknamed "piggy" for his weight issue, scoffed at when his asthma acted up, and was so poorly respected they even took his glasses to make fires. It's possible the author in that day was already speaking against bullying, but it's more likely that it has always been a common issue and often the most rebelled against is the brightest of the bunch in the first place, just that groups are too dim-witted and prejudiced to listen.

It fully works as a dystopia - it's not in the future, but it's a twisted 'society gone wrong in unusual setting' scenario. The island certainly wasn't utopia - despite how pretty it seemed. And how small was this thing? They made it seem incredibly tiny.

As much as I enjoyed the book - and I did, it was riveting, well-written, with rounded characterization that rang true - I think it would have been interesting to add some more nature elements other than fire and poor pigs. Island snakes are creepy, they did say there were sharks in the water beyond the safe lake-thing area but never mentioned it again - as twisted as it sounds, I kind of wanted a wild bore to show at least one of the savages who was boss since they were so relentlessly after the pigs. Even if the author wrote it to focus on the nature of man overriding civilization's best intentions, it would have been even more tense to add some of that in the mix before their little group started falling apart. Even if no one were hurt, the suspense of it would have made the story more gripping than it already was.

I enjoyed how - instead of just having the sides of leadership struggling for dominance, followers unsure who to follow, and a breakdown of civilization - they also had a fear of an unknown element they called 'the beast.' It wouldn't have been realistic for them, especially as children, not to have a least one overriding fear to help shape them. I think most civilizations were originally shaped from fear as they formed themselves anyway.

Overall, whether schools want you to read it or not, it's a worthy classic. I'm curious on reading more from the author since I dug his writing style and appreciate his honest look at the subject.

Rest of quote from author on theme that reveals the ending (highlight text below to see spoiler)

The whole book is symbolic in nature except....the rescue in the end where adult life appears, dignified and capable, but in reality enmeshed in the same evil as the symbolic life of the children on the island. The officer, having interrupted a man-hunt, prepares to take the children off the island in a cruiser which will presently be hunting its enemy in the same implacable way. And who will rescue the adult and his cruiser?"

   And this was beyond creepy

   Book Quotes:

“Maybe there is a beast… maybe it's only us.” 

“I believe man suffers from an appalling ignorance of his own nature. I produce my own view in the belief that it may be something like the truth.” 

   Video SparkNotes: William Golding's Lord of the Flies summary :

   Banned Notes from American Library Association

The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
  • Challenged at the Dallas, TX Independent School District high school libraries (1974). 
  • Challenged at the Sully Buttes, SD High School (1981). Challenged at the Owen, NC High School (1981) because the book is "demoralizing inasmuch as it implies that man is little more than an animal."
  • Challenged at the Marana, AZ High School (1983) as an inappropriate reading assignment.
  • Challenged at the Olney, TX Independent School District (1984) because of "excessive violence and bad language." A committee of the Toronto, Canada Board of Education ruled on June 23, 1988, that the novel is "racist and recommended that it be removed from all schools." Parents and members of the black community complained about a reference to "niggers" in the book and said it denigrates blacks.
  • Challenged in the Waterloo, IA schools (1992) because of profanity, lurid passages about sex, and statements defamatory to minorities, God, women and the disabled.
  • Challenged, but retained on the ninth-grade accelerated English reading list in Bloomfield, NY (2000).
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