May 13, 12
Recommended to Michael by:
poli sci students, lit students, readers
Read in January, 1982, read count: 1
This is one of those books everyone is forced to read in school that is actually a pretty good read when you give it a chance, but most people just hate it because they had to read it in school. It is a political satire about the nature of human societies, which makes the point that, given the opportunity to run their own lives, people return to savagery and superstition, rather than growing up and taking responsibility for themselves. One might also argue that it is a comment on how secular society, having lost its "parent" by turning away from God after the French Revolution, has become increasingly infantile and vicious, with no moral guideposts to work from.
Most people are familiar with the basic story, in which a group of children are abandoned on an island in the tropics, and forced to fend for themselves with no adult help. At first, this is frightening, then exhilarating, until it becomes oppressive and terrible. The character we most identify with is Ralph, who wants to maintain order and civility, but is fighting an uphill battle against Jack, who simply wants to revel in power and bully the others into doing things his way. A sad victim is Piggy, who is the intellectual of the group. In order to survive, the children must hunt for wild pigs, which becomes an important initiation rite and give the warrior caste disproportionate power, while a kind of religion arises around a supposed “Beast” that haunts the wooded areas.
As a metaphor, the book is excellent, although the writing isn’t quite as inspired as Orwell or Conrad. This edition includes some interesting comments by Golding at the end.