Monday, April 16, 2012

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding
Published: Pedigree Books edition, 1970
pages: 202

This is an Eclectic Reader 2012 Challenge book!

This review has SPOILERS!

This is the worlds worst book, parable if you will.  It left me highly irritated and unsatisfied, also slightly depressed for the nature of society. (Not really, it was very well written.)

A group of boys gets stranded on an island and are left to find food and shelter.  The boys elect a leader, Ralph, who was determined to find a way off the island and back to England.  Along with Piggy, he tried to keep the boys safe and in order.  Ralph, determined to get off the island, he commands that a fire be built and sustained so that passing ships will see it.  For a while this works but Jack, the boy in charge of the hunters, gets restless and decides that he should have been the leader.  This is reaffirmed after he successfully catches and kills his first wild hog.  When the group of boys splits in two, most going with Jack, nothing but animosity between the boys is left.

William Golding does not neatly skirt around his opinions of the true nature of humanity.  He does not baby or hold the reader's hand.  He lets you fall deep into the most horrifying and ultimately distressful story of good and evil. Each character seems to symbolize a different characteristic like common sense, knowledge, violence, spirituality, and evil.  It is not immediately evident who symbolizes what, but the reader can quickly draw conclusions through the characters actions.  For example, Ralph symbolizes common sense because he is so adamant about keeping the fire going, which is the only way they would get off the island.  Anyone with self-preservation or common sense would realize that the fire was their best chance of being rescued.  Also, Jack symbolizes violence.  As the new chief and the leader of the hunters, he is wild and blood thirsty, always craving to kill more hogs.

Ralph and Piggy seem to be the only boys with enough sense to continue to strive to get off the island.  The others seem to submit to their fate.  They care less about getting off the island and more about hunting and killing.  The reenacting games are terrifyingly violent that result with two murders and one attempted.  The consequences are nonexistent because the tribe leader sees nothing wrong with it.  All of the savage ways, seem to be completely forgotten as soon as an adult steps onto the shores.  The boys become English children once again.  It's like the subconscious can erase the horror that occurs when there is no one around to monitor it.

People are inherently evil and occasionally do good things.  I absolutely do not like the fact that the subconscious goes away, essentially making everything that happened on the island okay or accidental.  No responsibility is taken and because there was no one to witness it, no one will ever take responsibility.

So it is with sadness that I cannot tell you whether I did not like this story because of it's implications or if I just did not enjoy reading it.  I guess it can be one in the same.  I wanted to like this novel, I wanted to meditate on the morals and meanings behind William Golding's tale.  Alas, consensus is: negative.

Stars: 2.5/5


"One sees what Golding is doing. He is showing us stripped man, man naked of all the sanctions of custom and civilization, man as he is alone and in his essence, or at any rate, as he can be conceived to be in such a condition." 
     - Walter Allen

"To me Lord of the Flies has always represented what novels are for, what makes them indispensable." 
     -Stephen King

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