Content warning: racism, including quoting the N-word
The boy with fair hair lowered himself down the last few feet of rock and began to pick his way towards the lagoon.
Stripped of a name, our hero begins. What follows will be built up from nothing from a blank start, with only human nature to guide.
It's worth pointing out that Lord of the Flies is, for all its artistic merits, a fundamentally racist book. The English boys revert to a state of savagery without the saving elements of civilisation, and this is explicitly racialised: Piggy, the voice of 'sense', yells 'Which is better - to be a pack of painted niggers like you are or to be sensible like Ralph is?', and his cry creates a moment of thematic climax. Civilisation and 'savagery' are diametrically opposed here: the idea that jungle hunters might have a civilisation of their own that merely differs from English culture is simply not part of the book's thinking. There is civilisation, and there is Other, and children revert to Other when exposed to tropical conditions and removed from adults. It may be the 'darkness of man's heart', as the final page has it ... but the very phrase evokes Heart of Darkness, published fifty years before, and Chinua Achebe had plenty to say about that.Jungles are not good for man, whispers the book. For its message to be accepted, we must accept the notion that some people are more 'savage' than others - not just more aggressive, more malicious or more unreflective, but more primitive. Portraying children as savages is the cultural brother of portraying 'savages' as children.
In the light of all this, it is significant that the first thing we hear about Ralph, the first words of the book, are a reference to the colour of his hair. White boys can have many colours of hair, not all of them immediately indicative of whiteness, but Ralph is blond, the fairest of the fair. Without having to state it directly - this is, after all, an elegantly written book - the narrative tells us that we are dealing with Caucasian children.
Caucasian children, but in a tropical setting. As we slide down the rock with Ralph we could be in a forest or on a moor; it's only when we reach the last word that we realise we cannot possibly be in England. 'Lagoon' is positioned for impact, a mild shock. Ralph's hair clashes with his surroundings - and it's notable, too, that he is not entirely at ease in them. He doesn't slide or jump down the rock, but 'lowered himself'; he doesn't walk towards the lagoon but 'pick his way'. He's sure-footed enough to navigate this environment - his physical superiority to Piggy will be quickly demonstrated - but it's the grace of a healthy English schoolboy, cultivated on the playing field and climbing the odd apple tree, carefully used to move through an unfamiliar environment. Ralph is not in his element here, and he never will be. He is strong and neat enough to get through it, but it's the attitude of a civilised boy: mens sana in corpore sano. Keep your feet and keep your head; don't get too comfortable here.
Of course, it's also a storytelling device: Ralph is moving away from a plane crash, already on the go when we see him. The crash itself is the last instant of civilisation, the death of all the adults responsible for the boys, and it is over before the story begins. We will be witnessing the Fall of Man, or at least the fall of boys, and we enter the story at the moment it begins. The boys are, according to the story's notion of children as unsentimental, unconcerned by the crash: it lifts off their memories leaving little trace just as the jungle grows back in the earth it damages, and since it will not be important to them, we do not need to see it. The story will operate in a space that becomes more and more as if there has been nothing before the island with only Ralph and Piggy to insist that there is another life to return to, and the narrative will not help them. Civilisation is only a memory here, and we will see it present only in hints and aftermath. Like the boys, we can only grasp what has preceded the island through half-remembered details and increasingly ambiguous traces.
It's also a character presentation. Ralph, to the annoyance of his rival Jack, is a foresightful boy who rejects immediate delights in the name of the long-term goal of rescue: Ralph is focused on solutions and practical about necessities, and he has staying power. When we first see Ralph, he's already trying to cope with his situation, navigating his way through a hostile environment with deft caution, heading towards the least hostile place he can find. Ralph is relentless in his commitment to order, and in the opening sentence he is working towards it.
This active start makes an interesting narrative mirror to the ending: we begin with Ralph, and we end with Ralph (almost; the last paragraph shows the embarrassed reaction of the rescuer, unable to understand the trauma the boys have undergone), and the sensible boy on the move ends as an overwhelmed boy weeping for 'the end of innocence'. Ralph will struggle for survival right up until the end, will give in to despair only when the arrival of adults makes it safe, but despair will finally get him. He starts by moving towards his goal of 'law and rescue', but by the time it's attained, it will bring nothing but the chance to mourn.
Ralph, in other words, begins the book already carrying the standard of civilisation. He will cling to it with heroic persistence right until the last minute, but will no longer have the conviction that drives him through the first sentence, that 'law' is the natural way to behave. Ralph's fair hair and careful steps are doomed. [ kit whitfield ] (less)
i remember this book fondly from my time as a school gal. i rarely read then, but every now and then the urge to go to the teeny tiny school library w...morei remember this book fondly from my time as a school gal. i rarely read then, but every now and then the urge to go to the teeny tiny school library would possess me and i would browse through the young adult section which were probably about forty books top. and boy, am i glad i came across this one. looking back, there are some bad events intertwined of course, but it's the little things that brought me pleasure which define my memories at school the most. so yes, the sentimental value makes this a 5 star read.
this was definitely a catch, really entertaining. told by an autistic teenager to get a complete different view on things and life altogether. i hope...morethis was definitely a catch, really entertaining. told by an autistic teenager to get a complete different view on things and life altogether. i hope i'll find a book similar to this one...that'd great!(less)
The first book i ever read written by Jodi Picoult. At first i hesitated whether to read it or rather not, in the end my sister convinced me that i'd...moreThe first book i ever read written by Jodi Picoult. At first i hesitated whether to read it or rather not, in the end my sister convinced me that i'd regret NOT reading it ... so i read.
Usually if i find a book to be boring, i normally just turn the pages and read some paragraphs, because I'm too lazy to read it throughly, but still want to know how the story ends - and why.
I'm glad i read this one completely. I like how the story unfolds and ends, like J.Picoult said: >> it couldn't have ended any other way. <<
Now, a few years later, I've come to read many of her other novels (new & old). It kind of seems annoying that she ALWAYS has to include a trial in her books, but since the stories are good, what to do? - you still read them! Another positive aspect is that she wants every person to get a chance to explain his/her actions, why did s/he do what s/he did? You can't really blame any of the characters and have at least a little bit of sympathy for each & everyone. She intentionally did not include Kate, only in the end (last chapter & prologue, actually), are you able to read what she's thinking and what happened to all the other remaining characters ...(less)
movie news: Sophie Nelisse is to play the title character of Liesel Meminger. Oscar-nominated actor Geoffrey Rush and War Horse ac...more (c) alison scarpulla
movie news: Sophie Nelisse is to play the title character of Liesel Meminger. Oscar-nominated actor Geoffrey Rush and War Horse actress Emily Watson will portray Liesel’s foster parents. [ full article ]
i liked that one a lot. my first hale-book. what encouraged me to read the book was that dashti was a character with good AS WELL AS bad sides, most o...morei liked that one a lot. my first hale-book. what encouraged me to read the book was that dashti was a character with good AS WELL AS bad sides, most of the time she obeyed her lady, but got annoyed too...she wasn't beautiful or at least not a typical beauty which made her much more likeable. what i didn't like was that as the story unfolded it became pretty obvious WHO the bad character/villain was, but...well as you can see it didn't stop me from reading till the end(less)