Mk's Reviews > Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies by William Golding
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Mar 07, 08

Recommended to Mk by: required high school reading
Read in January, 1996

I hated this book. First off, as I remember, it talks about humans failure to govern ourselves, or more broadly the failures of human nature. There are a few reasons why I think simply dropping a group of kids on a desert island does not in fact prove anything.

1) These kids were raised in a capitalist, nominally demcratic society. The first thing they do is appoint leaders. As someone who spends my time working in consensus based groups seeking to challenge hierarchical structures, I have a strong belief that this is not how things need to be. It takes a bunch of unlearning and relearning to use these formats - simply being in a new space or being a child does not do this work. The author and the children he writes about are a part of a specific culture, and it's incorrect to generalize these values to a broader concept of human nature.

2) They're all boys! Again, socialization (yes, even of a 6 year old) plays a huge role in what behavior we see as appropriate. While it's quite true that men (or at least masculinity) control government, it's ridiculous to use only boys to extrapolate what ways of governing ourselves are possible.

I read this book in 1996 when I was a freshman in highschool, so maybe there's something I missed. Or maybe my memories are being colored by just how gross the pig's head descriptions were. If so, feel free to correct me. For now though, I have to say that this book is offensive and makes dangerous assumption.
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Comments (showing 1-28 of 28) (28 new)

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Wesley I agree. I didn't like it much either. Personally, I don't even think that that would happen, but even if it did, you're right that it doesn't show a thing about human nature.

And I can't imagine why he didn't want any girls on the island. It definitely would have added a very interesting element to the story.

Logan He couldn't have girls on the island, it would change the entire story, complicated it because boys would feel the need to protect the girls. That couldn't be had in this book. And when people are in a desperate situation they ALWAYS look to someone to lead them, period. Not just capitalists. Take Russia for example, people needed a strong leader, and they found Stalin. Unfortunately, Stalin slaughtered millions of Russians. My point is not just capitalists need leaders...

Justin Interestingly enough, I agree with your premise. I find myself thrown into the occupation of arguing against the oft' regurgitated and unthinking phrase (and variations on this theme), "war is human nature." These are learned patterns ... and in specific relation to this book, these patterns were instilled into the minds of children who were given birth by citizens of hegemonic nations. The same could easily be true if this book were to be set using contemporary American children. However, I liked the book in itself and do not believe it is a necessity to take the spotlight Golding has presented and turn it into the sun.

Jason yo dude, you contradict yourself here, characterizing a really brazen statement as obvious: "While it's quite true that men (or at least masculinity) control government," then at the end say this book makes "makes dangerous assumption."

It's not a social experiment or a rouse of the same kind of idea, like Survivor: Australian Outback or some other bullshit attempt to lock people on an island. It is fiction used to explore an idea and communicate it in a way that we can all understand. I don't think Golding is trying to suggest that men are the keepers of government, or that necessarily much of this degeneration comes from the capitalist system. I think he takes a situation where people are forced to make decisions and runs with it, displaying the worst of the worst. Surely, in your understanding of hierarchies you know that decision-making requires an acquisition of power and that often decisions are led by insolent morons who only go on a whim. His idea is that left alone without the resources we have come to guard ourselves with, we would inevitably descend into savages.

It is the way of human nature. We don't see desperation and fear like these children did, so we don't have a sense of their dementia. This book is great because it explores an idea we could not test. But we can get a notion of it, by exploring the ideas that even in boys; violence, bureaucracy and mass discrimination are still components of our basic animal intuition--and fearfully, they could be the elements that guide our downfall of a rational, equitable civilization.

Lambert This is a story about boys stranded on an island, and it is hardly fair to cricise on the basis that you would have preferred some girls to have been there. Golding is spot on in the way he depicts the breakdown of expected conduct amongst these boys. An absolute classic.

message 6: by Engineous (last edited Mar 11, 2010 01:12AM) (new)

Engineous Jason wrote: "It is the way of human nature. We don't see desperation and fear like these children did, so we don't have a sense of their dementia. This book is great because it explores an idea we could not test. But we can get a notion of it, by exploring the ideas that even in boys; violence, bureaucracy and mass discrimination are still components of our basic animal intuition--and fearfully, they could be the elements that guide our downfall of a rational, equitable civilization."

I can provide 472305 examples of how women raping men is part of human nature based on evolution. Are they right? Hell no, and neither are you.

The assumptions you make about human nature are exactly what zie was pointing out as misguided. You agree with the basic theories of capitalism, democracy, and malicious nature put forth in this book; of course you don't see how they're massively incorrect. Further, there was not a single piece of your comment that was actually applicable to the review. I think that annoyed me the most, honestly. You don't even know what you're arguing against and you haven't conceived of sides and ideas outside your dichotomy. Zie never claimed that the book was saying men were in control of government (I mean Jesus, how do you get that?); zie claimed that the book wasn't accurate or realistic because of the background culture where men/manliness is in control of government, among other things.

Nature is not evil, or cruel, or painful. Disease does not occur except in cases of corruption (e.g., houses, trains, a frugivorous primate species hunting other animals). Violence, bureaucracy and mass discrimination are not part of any animal's nature and can't be, because the nature of a world without artificially instituted and enforced power dynamics cannot contain... okay, well, bureaucracy and mass discrimination; the violence is just much, much different than you can conceptualize. It's impossible to run a bureaucracy within a truly primitivist (i.e., no tools, farming or villages) world, and it's pretty fucking hard to discriminate against someone when they can flip you the bird and go off and eat fruit, and you can't do anything about it except be a little antifeminist, intentionally misinterpreting pissant.

Drop out of school and learn something, for realz.

Natasha Farro-York-Harnage First off if girls were there they would take over. It did show human nature. Besides it's an old book.

Deckardo Jackson Sorry, but you have little credibility condemning a book you read 14 years ago. Post another review when your opinion is properly informed. You're entitled to your opinion, but this is an acknowledged classic. Make an effort at least.

Dylan I'm not sure where you got the idea Lord of the Flies is trying to "prove anything". This is fiction and the events on the island are solely representations and analogies for Golding's views. Disagreeing with Golding's views is fine, but implying this book atempts to prove something makes little sense, seeing as the events are entirely fictional.

message 10: by Ross (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ross Slayton Sir you are trying to "read to much into" this simple book! Its a book meant for middle school boys, not to solve or even offer solutions to the problems of modern society. If you think that this need so to be discussed as much as you have then you were either shaken or dropped as an infant!

Kenneth Jun @Ross
I don't think you should write off any work of literature as a "simple book". I'm pretty sure Golding wrote this book solely for an audience of "middle school boys" also. There are many, many literary analyses about this book and people have been "reading too much into" this book for years and years.

I cannot believe you're saying an author's choice of creating a story in a certain way is "incorrect". Yeah, maybe this wouldn't happen in real life. But this is fiction. Golding is using these characters to prove a point.

And you would have liked this story if it had girls in it? That's just random. o_O; I don't think he could have kept the narrative going in the same direction if you added a group of girls. It'd be a whole different story.

Hannah actually, in regards to your second point, this guy actually said himself the only reason he didn't write any girls into his book is because he is a guy and had no idea how a girl would act in this situation. simple as that, it's not trying to "prove" anything. -___- smh

Kenyon You sound like a physicist criticizing cartoons for being innaccurate. stop.

message 14: by Joe (new)

Joe Curtis It's supposed to be realistic, back then, in England they had all boys schools, hence the reason no girls. They had also been brought up in a capitalist and democrat society, of course the first thing they are gonna do is elect leaders. Dude, I'm 14 years old and i could figure it out.

David Joe Curtis: I wish some of my fellow lit students at university could talk to you.

It should be mentioned that Golding was also writing this as a counterargument to RM Ballantyne's "Coral Island" that depicts an idyllic situation with similar characters. Golding, as a good novelist and skilled essayist, was illustrating his beliefs in a context that everyone could read and understand without (and I stress this point) bringing up in any overt way contemporary politics.

message 16: by Cat (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cat Besides the pig's head description, which I actually thought was one of the few things could appreciate, I had the same problems. For me the book was just frustrating because it so obviously wanted to tell you that you were the characters, when I didn't feel represented by them at all. Golding tried to make a universal statement about human nature, but after reading, I still felt strongly that I would have reacted differently in those situations

Craig Stamper I see from your comment that you’re a Gen Xer. Golding was not. He fought in WW 2 and personally witnessed the thin veneer of civilization disappear from humanity, all across the world. Capitalism and democracy didn't prevent human beings from indulging in the worst, most widespread atrocities in history, and Golding experienced it firsthand. You came along later, after WW 2 and Vietnam, and read this book amid the relative peace and comfort of the Clinton era. You became convinced that your generation of civilized "democratic capitalists" could never devolve to the behavior of the boys in Golding’s novel. Pull back the curtain and you'll discover an endless parade of barbarism, committed by civilized societies in your own lifetime, from Vietnam to the Iraq War, from systemic poverty to “random” violence to economic injustice that destroys lives every day. A few years before you were born, our civilized nation slaughtered several million Vietnamese men, women, and children on the other side of the world who had posed no threat at all to us. I applaud the work you do, but laws and institutions have not changed human nature. Laws and institutions are often themselves merely instruments of raw power. For so-called civilized people to be barbaric, no island is required.

Andrew O There is something else that people forget when they read this, that it's fiction not science and does not prove anything.

Sanjay Roy England is a monarchy. Not a democracy. They elected a leader because that was the only way to keep everyone in order.

Caryn @Craig Stamper: Wow! Very well said! Thank You, I completely agree.

Natalie We're not exactly given a reason why they're all boys, but I ink we can assume that the plane that evacuated them was taking then away from an all-boys place, like a boarding school.

Natalie think*

Laura Emilie Denmar You missed the point of the story. It's a post war reflection on humanity...Golding witnessed first hand the horrors the Jews were suppressed under...the point is that under this mob mentality, this fear and human need to be accepted even the most 'innocent' of characters will succumb to a dark leader who can promise them security. Therefore this is not a presumptuous dangerous statement to be making of a moral- it's a comment, a reflection because humans have already succumbed to this and done horrifying things under Hitler's reign. What's more- the pig imagery isn't just thrown in for gruesomely dramatic effect- lord of the flies is an epithet for Beelzebub (the devil) and was often said to embody the form of a pig in the guise of avarice. Sorry but I think your review comes across as very ignorant...

message 24: by Philipp (new) - added it

Philipp Have you ever been to a group that seeks a goal? Have you ever been in male only environments? You are talking about the female social matrix only. Where everything is reaffirmed under consensus and everyone just keeps affirming other's opinions. We men create hierarchies by default and we are problem solvers. When someone throws a tantrum about how unfair it is that he has to take the stones and not the wood and the other does the other way around we get stuck in this drama cycle. Throw a group of females with limited resources on the island. They would enjoy themselves until the resources run out. Then they would die. Actually there were some experiments on that one, too. But even just by observation about how groups work this is obvious.

message 25: by AJ (new) - rated it 4 stars

AJ @Philipp
Where did you find this "research"? Right now it sounds like it came straight out of your ass. You could have at least provided a link to an article or essay or something. Men are the problem solvers is a bit of a broad statement and unbelievable statement.

message 26: by Michele (new)

Michele Morin What AJ said... a terrible and erroneous thing to lump-sum by gender. Please...

Natalie "It's ridiculous to only use boys to extrapolate what ways of governing ourselves are possible." I don't think you read the story thoroughly enough... The story is about the FALL of their "government", not the RISE. Also, this book has nothing to do with the genders of the characters, it's about the general nature of humanity. Everything that you said about how all the characters being male because they can govern themselves is never even suggested in the book, so your picking out of "sexism" is really just sexist itself.


This should explain to you part of the novel. I'm going to anticipate that he didn't use boys and girls because sex would arise from it. And didn't use only girls simply because the author is a male and has a better knowledge of childhood as a boy than childhood as a girl.

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