This was a disturbing book, much like the 1963 screen adaption was. It could be argued that the lesson here was how children can turn to savagery without rules and adult supervision, but what I took away was how one’s true colors come out when push comes to shove.
A group of school children are stranded on an island without adults and must fend for themselves. They come together, elect a leader and agree that their first priority is to get rescued. As the best laid plans tend to do, things quickly fall apart and playing and swimming about become the things to do for most of the children. The elected leader is usurped by a vicious rival and life on the island becomes survival of the fittest.
We first meet Ralph as the Fair Boy and wonder if he is just one of those boys who seems to have it all; blond hair, blue eyes, athletic skill and ease with others. When we get to know him better, we realize he is this and more as he struggles to keep the other boys focused on their rescue and becomes alarmed at the growing savagery among many of the older boys.
Piggy is wise and thoughtful and although never publicly acknowledged, becomes Ralph’s right hand man. He is the fat boy with glasses and asthma that can’t swim well and is not on equal ground physically with any of the boys. We’ve all at some time felt like him and as he stumbles, we fall with him, as he gasps for breath, we exhale and when he exhorts Ralph to call for a meeting, we shake our heads in agreement. Yet he remains the boy no one wants to be.
And then there is Jack, the boy who is both loathed and admired. He rebels against Ralph and organizes a group of hunters who, after killing a boar and offering a feast, finds he has more supporters than Ralph. His ego inflamed, he works the group into a frenzy with tragic results. This is a boy to fear and flee from, post haste!
My personal favorite was Simon who was brave, yet maintained his individuality and showed great concern for the ‘littleuns’. His mental state was certainly fragile, possibly some post traumatic stress, however, he was the only boy who fully understood everything that was happening on the island and when he sets out to deliver some factual information, he is ambushed by a barbarous group under Jack’s rule.
While I zipped through this distressing tale in two days, I was a tad disappointed in its abrupt conclusion. Golding had built up to a resounding crescendo only to taper off with a wee little whimper.
Suddenly, pacing by the water, he was overcome with astonishment. He found himself understanding the wearisomeness of this life, where every path was an improvisation and a considerable part of one’s waking life was spent watching one’s feet.
Roger gathered a handful of stones and began to throw them. Yet there was a space round Henry, perhaps six yards in diameter, into which he dare not throw. Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life. Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law.
A chat with Mr. Golding would surely be interesting. I’d love to ask about his time in the Royal Navy. I’d also be interested to hear about his childhood as he so adeptly captured the pathos of the young men in Lord of the Flies. He gives the impression of an adventurer so I’d be thrilled to hear some of his tales.
My rating for Lord of the Flies is a 8 out of 10.
To see the entire list, visit Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels.
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