Cecily's Reviews > Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies by William Golding
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May 12, 14

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”).

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.

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.

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).

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.

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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Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 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”).

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