"Lord of the Flies" is singularly the most important novel for required reading, whether assigned in school or self-imposed. It regularly appears as number one on my own list of best books.
Let's play "What if." What if a plane carrying a full load of school boys crashes on a deserted island with no adult survivors? What would happen to those boys? What would you expect to happen?
William Golding works with this premise: an idyllic setting, innocent schoolboys. One boy, an older boy just short of teenage years, a boy with fair hair, assumes leadership to stir the others into some semblance of organization and survival mode, much like adults would do if adults were present. He also saw a need to defuse the web of fear of the younger ones. Where are we? How long will we need to wait before someone comes for us? All questions with no answers at this time.
Ah, yes, Golding tells us, everything goes well for a while. But remember the "scar" made by the crashing plane? Something ugly is on this island (but it's not the scar). It's in the bushes, in the dark, in the depths, in the depths of hearts, and it grows like the malignancy it is.
A blatant revelation of what is about to come occurs when Roger silently and stealthily watches a young'un, unbeknownst to the little child. All the young'un is doing is running a stick through the sand, disturbing a crab in a tiny pool of water. Even he imposes control and fear on a helpless creature as Roger boldly picks up a couple of rocks and tosses them the youngster's way. He deliberately misses but comes closer with each throw. Next time he will probably hit the young boy, but not yet. This taboo--deliberately and unnecessarily causing pain to one smaller than you--has not been broken--yet.
Although the dance of the spears, the primeval chants, the attack and killing of the pig, then feasting on its flesh, their kill, are shocking acts of savagery, this event is foreshadowed by the seemingly innocent lob of the stones. From a casual incident, but one with eventual intentionality, the ritualistic slaughter is not so far-fetched or surprising. Golding prepares his readers. This is how the chaos of society starts. It begins with one simple disconnect from the rules. It begins in the minds and hearts. Will I do what society expects? Will I follow the rules to keep things running and working? Do I break a rule or two for my own enhancement. Will I feel a power surge if my rock hits that young `un?
Ralph would probably speak of the terror of knowing that rules WILL be broken. He would speak of the utter horror that any rule can be and will be broken and he won't live to tell about it. Just ask Piggy.
This novel is the only one I taught over and over during the twelve years I worked with high school seniors. My other choices I would switch around those years, drop some, add some. This one I kept. It is that important. I think of "Lord of the Flies" as a necessary manual for societal behavior and an effort to keep the chaos of evil at bay.
Is it even necessary to ask how many times that rock has been thrown since this novel was published in the 1950's? Or how much chaos has imploded so many lives?
Like the way of manuals, some remain in circulation and are deeply read; others fall by the wayside out of disinterest. Some are thrown in the trash. "Lord of the Flies"--what is its current status? And society--how is it doing? Reader, are you a little bit fearful?
on January 2, 2009
I taught this book in my sophomore English class. I started each unit with a "free-for-all" day, an entire class period in which I said nothing, gave no instructions, and wore a sign that read "I'm closed for repairs." I did this with ten different classes and each time chaos ensued. As soon as students realized I was present but not really there, they tested the limits with what they could and could not do. Since I told myself that I would only break character if a student's well-being was at stake, the students quikly realized they could get away with a lot. Leaders emerged and some kids tried to be somewhat productive, but the outcome was always dismal and disturbing. One time all the desks were piled into one heap as if they were going to be a part of one giant bonfire. This was always an interesting introduction to the book since the students quickly made the connections when they started reading the book. I am a very positive person by nature and tend to see the best in people, so some of the truths in this book are hard for me to acknowledge. However, Golding hits us with the reality of our hearts smack dab between the eyes. This book is a fascinating read that will force you to look closely within your own heart while also reminding you to be a little more cautious when trusting other people's intentions.
on March 17, 2001
With this his first novel, author William Golding wrote a novel that he could never surpass in greatness. Lord of the Flies is a novel about our human nature. Too often I think, people jump to quick conclusions about the book and Golding's stand on human nature. "His stance is too pessimistic" or "That books really gross." What these people fail to realize is that Golding tried to paint a picture of human nature as he saw it. He wasn't making things up, I don't think he was particularly angry, he wrote Lord of the Flies to expose people to the atrocities that he witnessed in World War II.
One of the largest underlying principles in Lord of the Flies is of course, human nature. William Golding gives the reader three interesting characters to analyze: Jack, Piggy, and Ralph. It's quite apparent as you read the novel that Golding must have read a little Sigmund Freud before writing Lord of the Flies. Let's start with Jack. Jack is the definite Id on the island. He wants to survive but he also wants to eat meat and have fun. Jack is clearly unable to control these urges and in turn has a pretty large influence on the other boys on the island. Piggy is the definite Superego on the island. Piggy is always referring to "well my auntie..." and always finds an excuse not to do something. Piggy has no intentions of satisfying his id, and in turn influences only Ralph and Simon. Ralph on the other hand, takes the middle road. He is clearly trying to find a way to satisfy his id, but he can't seem to find one. Take what he said in chapter eight for instance: "...Without the fire we can't be rescued. I'd like to put on war-paint and be a savage. But we must keep the fire burning..." Ralph is definitely trying to satisfy his id, but those laws of culture still remain with him, telling him it's not the thing a proper English boy should do.
Another interesting connection I made while reading, was one between Jack's status of leader and the ideology of Thomas Hobbes. Unlike Hobbes though, Jack's power was used for quite the opposite affect. Hobbes believed that in order for a perfect society to exist, a higher power had to be in charge, in order to keep the other citizens in check. Jack was that higher power on the island. He was in control of everything, however, his power had quite the opposite affect of "keeping people in check." Jack used the powerful persuasion of the id to persuade others. Jack could promise meat and fun, whereas Ralph could promise labor and fruit, something the other boys definitely didn't want.
Lord of the Flies is also a novel filled with symbolism. Probably the most important of these symbols was the conch. The conchs represented several things, including freedom and order on the island, and possibly, even for a short time, unity between the boys. One of the most interesting aspects to the conch was the fact that Piggy couldn't use it. This shows a lack of leadership or strength on Piggy's part. The conch became a tool of free speech. Those who wanted to speak at the tribal council had to hold the conch in order to be heard. However, as the story progressed, this practice diminished more and more, until the island was a place of complete chaos and anarchy. In one of the last chapters of the novel, the conch gets completely destroyed. This symbolizes two things. First, it symbolizes the end of order on the island- no more meetings, no more assemblies, none of that, the island was a place of anarchy. Secondly, this destruction symbolizes the end of Ralph's leadership. The boys had become slaves to Jack and his power, their conscience gave in.
Finally, about the novel itself. Golding is quite obviously a fan of Joseph Conrad. The writing style is almost identical, and the subject matter is very similar, with Golding opting to use children (young boys) instead of the men of Conrad's Heart of Darkness. The novel moves very quickly and it's rather short (202 pages in my copy.) You'll be immersed in the varying characters and degrees of humanity that they present. Keep in mind, that although Golding's view on humanity may seem very pessimistic, he's writing from his perspective on human nature, something that he witnessed first hand during WWII.
on July 19, 2004
If not for anything else, William Golding's LORD OF THE FLIES (1954) is remarkable for having come out at a time when Western society was being bombarded with visions of totalitarian nightmares. The Nazis were gone, but still in modern memory. Russia's totalitarian state was a constant threat. McCarthyism hovered over everyone's privacy, as did J. Edgar Hoover. And recent fiction, like Aldous Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD and, especially, George Orwell's 1984 presented world views where the human spirit is all but squelched by governments and technologies.
LORD OF THE FLIES, in its own way, says, "Hold on a second! Humans do need to be regulated. And they do need to protect themselves from each other." His tale is a warning: Humanity, without government, will degenerate into savagery and anarchy. And that is precisely what happens in this book. You know the plot, by now. But what has to be mentioned is that William Golding is a visionary who has the story-telling mastery to convey and do justice to that vision. LORD OF THE FLIES is a remarkable and powerful book, one that should be on everyone's bookshelf.
on April 22, 2010
Although I have not quite finished Lord of the Flies, I love the book so far. From my observations, the readers who enjoyed the novel loved the premise and the symbolism. Those who did not really like the book had problems either with having children as characters and carrying out these acts, or that it started out too slow. From where I am at in the book, it has been pretty good.
In September 19, 1911 British author William Golding was born in Cornwall, UK. Golding went to Oxford University to study in natural science; he then changed his major to English literature. Golding joined Britain's royal navy and fought in World War2. In September of 1954 he published his first, and most successful book, Lord of the Flies. Golding passed away on June 19, 1993.
The idea of these children stranded on this island and trying to survive is a fascinating plotline. The fact that these kids create their own little factions is also quite captivating. If this were to happen in real life, the factioning of the boys would have most likely happened. It would happen because as history can back up, people always separate themselves based on difference, whether it be due to opinions or race, people always segregate. The symbolism is this book is heavily implied. Ralph for instance is the leader, and it is implied that he is the voice of reason. Piggy is the timid follower who is very logical. Then, you have Jack. Jack is meant to represent the devil. He leads the children away from Ralph and teaches them to kill and disobey. People who did not enjoy the book missed all of this. All of this symbolism made the book so much more interesting because it turned a survival story into a story about human nature and the struggle of good vs. evil.
I will agree with the critics that the book did start out a little bit slow, but it picked up shortly after. I have enjoyed this book for the most part; that must be why it is on my outside reading list. It may not be one of my favorite books thus far, but it must be a classic for a reason.
It is always with a sense of foreboding that I pick up a book that I loved when I was much younger and read it after several years have passed, my fear being that the book will no longer hold up after the passage of time. Lord of the Flies was a book that I read at least three times a year when I was growing up, starting at about age 12. I eagerly devoured it, grappling with all of its symbolism, and even writing poems about some of the main characters. Fortunately I was never required to read it for school or I likely would not have enjoyed it as much.
I was pleased to read it again and find that Golding's novel of World War II era prep school boys surviving on an island after an airplane crash that kills all the adults is just as good as I remember it being. I could go on and on about the various symbolism in the book, and the descent of the boys into savagery, but I don't want to over analyze it.
It is a terrific book, with well thought out characters. One cannot help but feel sympathy for Ralph as he tries to keep a semblance of order. Anyone who has ever been terrorized by a school bully will sympathize with Ralph's struggle against Jack; and Piggy is a truly pathetic character. My favorite character has always been Simon, who is just a little off kilter but in the midst of his ramblings speaks a great deal of truth.
Kids, don't wait until your teacher makes you read this book. go out and get it and read it for yourself. Unlike most of the books you'll be required to read for school, this one has action, adventure, and enough gore to make it a good read. Later on you can worry about the symbolism and the deeper meanings within the book, but for now, just read it for fun.
on November 24, 1999
I read this book many years ago in high school, and found it very philosophical. It isn't conforting in any sense of the word, but it gives a powerful message regarding the nature of humans. The whole conflict between Jack and Ralph is petty, but that was the point. Written during the horrors of WWII, W. Golding wanted to show the readers that the only difference between human beings and beasts is that we are governed by laws and civilization, without which we do become savages. Disturbing, extremely, but that doesn't mean it isn't a good book. Someone once told me the purpose of art and literature is to make an audience think through its powerful messages, not to be comfortable to place in a "hospital" setting. Lord of the Flies does exactly that. Through vivid descriptions and masterful symbolism, this book conveys a powerful message regarding human nature. A previous reader claimed, due to the Columbine shootings, this book should not be read in high schools, I couldn't disagree more. It is because of such atrocious acts that the message this book contains is needed more than ever.
on June 28, 2006
Since a George Orwell reference is obviously required here, I read 'Animal Farm' directly before Lord of the Flies. And I was foolish enough to think that Animal farm is a great book! It can hardly stand on all four legs when measuring up to Lord of the Flies.
Just as 'Animal Farm' is a parody of the Russian Revolution, 'Lord of the Flies' is more of a parable for mankind than an inspiration for 'Hatchet'. Every (major) character is a symbol of some aspect of human nature. And what is a literal translation of "Beelzebub?" Not devil, as you might suspect -- "Lord of the Flies."
And if the Lord of the Flies is the Devil, Simon is Christ, or pure good -- the only boy brave enough to discover what the beast really is, the only one...crazy enough to understand it, and the one who would be sacrificed by all for trying to spread the words of the Lord of the Flies.
No, I did not read this book for class, thank God, or else I would most likely hate it just for that reason. I despise hearing teachers read aloud, I don't know why, and their stupid assignments (What would you do if you were trapped on an island? What would you bring?) completely miss the entire point of the book. This is not a survival story!
My edition of Lord of the Flies was printed in the seventies,and it is falling apart (I found it in my dad's study in the basement). The scotch-taped cover is blank white, except for the title and a simple sketch of the head and arms of a boy, head bent like a baby, clutching his hair in anguish. He appears to be covered in blood. Is it Ralph at the beginning of Chapter 11 (you'll see what I mean)? Is it a struggling, uncertain Jack?
Lord of the Flies is definitely not a survival story.
on August 25, 2006
I picked this book up for 50 cents at a thrift store. I had no idea what it was about as I have never been required to read it. I only recognized the title. Having now finished it, I can say it has been one of the most thought provoking stories I have ever read. While many have reasons to regard this as a depressing yarn of our humanity, I find myself uplifted by the message and the symbolism found throughout the novel.
The story follows the adventures of a band of British boys who are marooned on an island. At first the children seem much like the lost boys of Neverland, but the world in which they live is far more real and unforgiving. The boy with the fair colored hair named Ralph is appointed the leader and with the aid of his faithful sidekick Piggy, he attempts to maintain order among the multitude of boys. What begins as simple fun on the island quickly becomes a nightmare as Ralph begins to realize that the scariest things don't come from the outside, but from within. At the end of the story all childlike innocence is lost forever.
The symbolism and parallels to our time were amazing. William Golding had this to say in regards to the book's theme:
"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 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?"
While this message is among the most obvious, there are several other subtleties that can be found within the tale. The following are some of the main symbols:
The conch: An effective representation of order and society's sophistication.
The glasses: The glasses symbolize the gradual deterioration of society. Notice as the glasses get damaged so does the boy's organization.
The beast: 1) The irrational fears we all harbor. 2) The inner evil within humanity. 3) The idols of society.
Ralph & Jack: Ralph is the head of democracy while Jack represents that of anarchic rule.
Just in case you missed them, there are several other symbols which are worth looking up. Wikipedia currently has a good article as well as some other sites. Run a search online and you'll find plenty of interesting interpretations. Many of the symbols can be interpreted as Christian, but make of them what you will. Observing these will give you a greater appreciation for the story and not leave you wondering if it's some senseless tragedy.
on April 20, 2010
Lord of the Flies
By: William Golding
Non-Illustrated 184 pages
Aeonian Press $6.99
(From ages 12- Death)
By Matt Smetana
In the novel, the Lord of the Flies, William Golding attempted to inform readers of the problems of a stressed civilization as well as the problems of being a full-out savage. While Ralph has good intentions with forming a civilization and have everyone working together, but not everyone wants that perfect life. The civilians feel that while they're there, why don't they have fun. On the other spectrum, savagery is outright terrible for numerous reasons. First, there are no rules and anything goes, which could end in many mistakes or injuries. In addition, you could kill people by being erratic, and not actually assessing the situation first. Golding wants to stress the different concepts and viewpoints that many children have.
Golding was a teacher at Bishop Wordsworth's School until he got a few of his novels published. Such as Lord of the Flies, The Inheritors, Pincher Martin, and Free Fall. During World War II, Golding served in the Royal Navy, and played a key role in the take down of one of Germany's strongest ships.
In my opinion, William Golding not only accomplished his goal, but also brought a more extensive look as to what could really happen while stranded on a deserted island. Complete isolation transformed preppy English students into savages solely concerned with their own self-preservation. The different aspects and comparisons between the false sense of civilization and the complete negativity of savagery are displayed prominently between the complete juxtaposition of Ralph and Jack. An example of Ralph's stressed mentality of civilization was shown when the kids were out trying to have fun, he barked at them to "get back to work." On the other hand, Jack's savagery was shown when he and his gang ended up killing Piggy and Simon.
One of the book's strengths was that it demonstrated exactly how children act in real life. This is one of the book's greatest strengths because it brought all of the characters to life in a relatable way. The point of this book seemed to be the most personal to me, since I have seen those things in school. One of the book's biggest faults was that it fails to convey to the reader what repercussions Jack and his crew has to face for killing two innocent kids.