Cecily's Reviews > Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies by William Golding
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Mar 18, 15

bookshelves: miscellaneous-fiction
Read in February, 2009

A hard book to rate as although its well written and is very thought provoking, the content gets unpleasantly graphic and some aspects are awkwardly dated (eg the assumption the British boys should be jolly good chaps - “we’re not savages, we’re English”).

PLOT
It starts off as a conventional adventure: a mixed group of boys (some know each other; many who don’t) survive a plane crash on a desert island and struggle to survive. It is somewhat confused and confusing at first – perhaps to make the reader empathise with the boys’ confusion.

From the outset there are issues of priorities (Jack’s instant gratification of hunting or Ralph’s long term need for shelter and maintaining a fire signal) and leadership and it’s inevitable that standards of “civilization” will slip.

There is also an infectious fear of “the beast”, although whether one interprets it as animal, airman, hallucination, or symbolic may vary at different points in the story. Certainly the tone of the book changes after Simon’s first encounter with Lord of the Flies.

GROUP DYNAMICS
Eventually the boys split into two groups: hunters who become ever more “savage” in appearance and behaviour, and the remainder who want to retain order, safety, common sense – and their lives. Why do the obedient and angelic choir turn to savagery - does the fact they have an identified leader, who isn't the overall leader once they're on the island, contribute? One also wonders how the story might be different if it was a mixed sex group, or even an all girl group. Very different, certainly, and I suppose it would provide a distraction to what Golding was trying to say about human (or just male?) nature.

It illustrates how petty bullying can be condoned and encouraged within groups (exacerbated by rituals, chanting, body markings etc) and how it can escalate to much worse. Nevertheless, one of the main victims, Piggy, is proud of his differences, demonstrates knowledge and intelligence and actually grows in confidence as his leader loses his.

MILGRAM, ZIMBARDO, CHRISTIANITY...
It questions whether it is power or the environment that makes some of the boys so bad (echoes of Zimbardo’s prison experiments and Milgram’s obedience experiments - if a book can echo things which came after it was written).

In fact, Golding "experimented, while a teacher at a public school, with setting boys against one another in the manner of Lord of the Flies"! See http://www.theguardian.com/books/2009... (thanks Matt).

The more Christian concept of original sin runs through it, which was probably Golding's intention (his editor made him make Simon less Jesus-like), along with other Christian analogies relating to snakes, devils (aka Lord of the Flies), self sacrifice, and redemption/rescue.

And then there are the conch and fire as symbols of order and god, respectively, in total contrast to the warpaint etc of the warriors.

Lots to think about, but more the stuff of nightmares than dreams.

COMPARED WITH "THE HUNGER GAMES"
It's interesting to compare this with The Hunger Games, which modern teens probably find much easier to relate to (my review here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...).

I think one problem Lord of the Flies has is that the period is tricky: too far from the present to seem "relevant" (though I think it is), but not long enough ago to be properly historical.
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Quotes Cecily Liked

William Golding
“Maybe there is a beast… maybe it's only us.”
William Golding, Lord of the Flies


Comments (showing 1-25 of 25) (25 new)

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message 1: by Hannah (new) - added it

Hannah Finch I've never read this. I'll pick up a copy tomorrow so I can join in.


Andy This is another one that kinda slipped away in the stream of time. Thanks for the review; now I'm going to have to go find it and re-read it. :-)


Suzanne I've read Lord of the Flies and taught several times. I read the first of The Hunger Games. Personally I prefer the former. They both do contain the same themes, but I found Lord of the Flies richer because of the language. I'm sure kids would prefer The Hunger Games because the simpler language and the frequency of violence.


Cecily Suzanne wrote: "I found Lord of the Flies richer because of the language."
Yep - and the symbolism.


Suzanne wrote: "I'm sure kids would prefer The Hunger Games because the simpler language and the frequency of violence."
It's also easier to draw parallels with the modern world (not necessarily better, but easier).


Suzanne Luckily for the future generations, I'm retired. I was never known for taking the easier roads. They always said that I took literature and my job too seriously.


Cecily Unluckily for future generations, by the sound of it. :(
Taking literature too seriously?! What a sad and awful thing for someone to say.


Suzanne Most of what 15-18 years olds say, especially to their English teachers, is pretty sad and awful. Listen to the lyrics of their music. They grow up, or at least some do.
I've met a few, 10 years later who have fond memories of books and their false bravado. Maybe in reverse order.(-:


message 8: by Cecily (last edited Sep 15, 2013 03:28PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cecily Joanb wrote: "The book is not dated, actually, it's written for a certain time period. It's like saying "The French Lieutenant's Woman" is dated."

I don't quite agree. The French Lieutenant's Woman is a period piece, too distant from our current time for direct comparison with it, whereas Lord of the Flies is recognisably modern in some ways (aeroplanes, for instance) and although it has something to tell us today (e.g. about power), other aspects can be distracting or make it less appealing to the youth of today (eg the assumption the British boys should be jolly good chaps - “we’re not savages, we’re English”).


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

Alaa I was surprised in finding out that even the characters symbolized something; voilence, intellect, justice...and that's why some got along and other didn't. The notion of 'the beast' brought me to think of our own society's beast. Is he made up too? Needless to say I'm not scared of the beast anymore =)


Cecily Alaa wrote: " The notion of 'the beast' brought me to think of our own society's beast. Is he made up too? Needless to say I'm not scared of the beast anymore =) "

Whether or not the Beast is made up perhaps depends on whether you think the devil is made up. And there are plenty of adults who are scared of him!


message 12: by Alaa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alaa Hahahah yes indeed, and as I've figured out, the 'beast' is within us. It's very nicely potrayed in the lord of the flies


message 13: by Caroline (new)

Caroline A very interesting review as always Cecily. That Guardian article did not paint a very pretty picture of Golding. Have you by any chance read his biography?


message 14: by Matt (new) - rated it 3 stars

Matt Thanks for linking to me :)
I wonder if mentioning Golding's own experiments in a review is considered as judging author's behavior? That would be a mortal sin, according to GR standards ;-)
Maybe it's different for authors who are dead.


Cecily Caroline wrote: "A very interesting review as always Cecily. That Guardian article did not paint a very pretty picture of Golding. Have you by any chance read his biography?"

Thanks, Caroline. In answer to your question, I'm your opposite: I mainly read fiction. Were I big fan of Golding, I might read a biography of him, but I'm not, so I won't. Have you?


message 16: by Cecily (last edited Mar 18, 2015 06:36AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cecily Matt wrote: "Thanks for linking to me :)"

It seemed only fair.

Matt wrote: "I wonder if mentioning Golding's own experiments in a review is considered as judging author's behavior? That would be a mortal sin, according to GR standards ;-)
Maybe it's different for authors who are dead."


Ha! Good point, but I think the answer is in your final line. Almost all the infamous off-topic deletions were of authors who were able to object.


message 17: by Matt (last edited Mar 18, 2015 08:35AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Matt Another interesting tidbit I found in the book Was geschah mit Schillers Schädel? (trans: What happened to Schiller's Skull).
In an interview Truman Capote claimed that Lord of the Flies were almost identical to A High Wind in Jamaica; accusing Golding of plagiarism. I haven't found an article on the net yet. Found it right here on GR:
https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/...


message 18: by Caroline (new)

Caroline Cecily wrote: "Thanks, Caroline. In answer to your question, I'm your opposite: I mainly read fiction. Were I big fan of Golding, I might read a biography of him, but I'm not, so I won't. Have you?...."

I haven't. Whilst I do enjoy biogs - and particularly autobiogs, I don't often read about writers.


Cecily Thanks, Matt.

He really doesn't sound like a pleasant chap, does he?


message 20: by Riku (last edited Mar 30, 2015 05:08AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Nice to find your review on this, Cecily! Thanks for bringing out the Original Sin obsession. Yes, the book can be seen as an attempt to show the degraded nature of all humanity. An irremovable smear which is kept covered by the 'veneer of civilization' and is always waiting to be exposed...


Cecily Thanks, Riku. Coming from you, I'm flattered. It would be interesting to read something closer to Golding's original version - even though I expect I'd dislike it!


message 22: by Henry (last edited May 24, 2015 03:23AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Henry Avila There are no new plots under the Sun, Cecily. Some people are optimistic others pessimistic, but writers copy each other ( the polite word for this), it has always been so, and will always be this ...


Cecily Indeed. Even the idea of a limited number of plots is not original, even if people can't agree on the number:

The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories

Twenty Master Plots and How to Build Them


Henry Avila Still there are millions of books out in the market.


Cecily Thank goodness for that!


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