Lord of the Flies

Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. New York: Perigee Books, 1954.

What high school English lit teacher hasn’t put Lord of the Flies on his or her syllabi? What student hasn’t read at least one excerpt from this book? I shudder to think classrooms have moved to the movie version, but if that means Golding’s story lives on, so be it.

This could be called the most chilling sociological experiment of all times (besides Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game.) What happens when you take the most prim and organized society (proper English boys from a prep school), hand it the suggestion of chaos and violence (they are escaping a nuclear war), then leave it to its own devices without guidance (a deserted island without adults)? All normalcy goes out the window when the boys try to build their own hierarchical, structured society. In a Darwinian approach some boys, the strongest & smartest, rise to the top while weaker boys become scapegoats and victims of paranoia. In the beginning the group is held together by necessity. They recognize the need for fairness and organization, especially if they want to be rescued. But all that vanishes when the younger boys become increasingly convinced there is a monster on the island. No amount of rationalizing can calm them. Fear and violence escalates until there is no turning back. All calm is lost to tragedy.

Probably the most frustrating part about the book was something very deliberate on Golding’s part. When the boys are finally rescued the Naval officer is embarrassed by the children, especially Ralph’s emotional breakdown when remembering how it all fell apart. You want the officer, the adult, to be more understanding, to take the boys more seriously.

Book Trivia: Lord of the Flies influenced musicians like U2 and Iron Maiden and sparked television parodies but a full length movie has yet to be made.

Author Fact: Golding won a Nobel Prize for literature.

Favorite line: “The group of boys looked at the conch with affectionate respect” (p 128).

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads: Decade by Decade (1950s),” (p 177).

4 Comments on “Lord of the Flies”

  1. Karl Drobnic says:

    I stumbled onto Lord of the Flies when I was a young teenager, a couple years after it was published. The mistress of the bookmobile had put it in the Sci-Fi section, because of the title probably, and I was into Sci-Fi at the time. It was the first literary book I ever read of my own volition, and I can still remember the feeling I had when I finished it that I had just been on a very disturbing journey, but not of the Sci-Fi type at all. Lord of the Flies started changed my reading habits right then and there.

  2. gr4c5 says:

    “Lord of the Flies changed my reading habits right then and there.” Amazing story. I wish that would happen to people more often. Imagine the places we would go!

  3. Karl Drobnic says:

    Perhaps it happens more often than we suspect. Think of all the teens who put aside video games to devour the Harry Potter books.

  4. gr4c5 says:

    Harry isn’t exactly Lord of the Flies…but I definitely see what you are saying. Maybe after Harry Potter they feel compelled to pick up Tolkien or Le Guin or Asimov or Heinlein!

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