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Group Themed Reads: Discussions > Our March read - Lord of the Flies

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message 1: by Jenny, honorary mod - inactive (new)

Jenny (notestothemoon) | 846 comments I will open up the discussion folders for this book on 1st March.

Our leader will be C F S R.

message 2: by Jenny, honorary mod - inactive (new)

Jenny (notestothemoon) | 846 comments [image error]

About the book

Despite its later popularity, William Golding's Lord of the Flies was only a modest success when it was first published in England in 1954, and it sold only 2,383 copies in the United States in 1955 before going out of print. Critical reviews and British word of mouth were positive enough, however, that by the time a paperback edition was published in 1959, Lord of the Flies began to challenge The Catcher in the Rye as the most popular book on American college campuses. By mid-1962 it had sold more than 65,000 copies and was required reading on more than one hundred campuses.

The book seemed to appeal to adolescents' natural skepticism about the allegedly humane values of adult society. It also captured the keen interest of their instructors in debating the merits and defects of different characters and the hunting down of literary sources and deeper symbolic or allegorical meanings in the story—all of which were in no short supply. Did the ending of the story—a modern retelling of a Victorian story of children stranded on a deserted island—represent the victory of civilization over savagery, or vice versa? Was the tragic hero of the tale Piggy, Simon, or Ralph? Was Golding's biggest literary debt owed to R. M. Ballantyne's children's adventure story, The Coral Island, or to Euripides's classic Greek tragedy, The Bacchae?

Though the popularity of Golding's works as a whole has ebbed and grown through the years, Lord of the Flies has remained his most read book. The questions raised above, and many more like them, have continued to fascinate readers. It is for this reason, more than any other, that many critics consider Lord of the Flies a classic of our times.

About the author

From an unknown schoolmaster in 1954, when Lord of the Flies was first published William Golding became a major novelist over the next ten years, only to fall again into relative obscurity after the publication of the generally well-received The Spire in 1964. This second period of obscurity lasted until the end of the 1970s. The years 1979 to 1982 were suddenly fruitful for Golding, and in 1983 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. How does one account for a life filled with such ups and downs? There can be no one answer to that question, except perhaps to note that Golding's motto, "Nothing Twice," suggests a man with an inquiring mind who was not afraid to try many different approaches to his craft. He knew that while some of his efforts might fail, others would be all the stronger for the attempt.

William Golding Born in Cornwall, England, in 1911, Golding was the son of an English schoolmaster, a many-talented man who believed strongly in science and rational thought, Golding often described his father's overwhelming influence on his life. The author graduated from Oxford University in 1935 and spent four years (later described by Golding as having been "wasted") writing, acting, and producing for a small London theater. Golding himself became a schoolmaster for a year, after marrying Ann Brookfield in 1939 and before entering the British Royal Navy in 1940.

Golding had switched his major from Science to English Literature after two years in college—a crucial change that marked the beginning of Golding's disillusion with the rationalism of his father. The single event in Golding's life that most affected his writing of Lord of the Flies, however, was probably his service in World War II. Raised in the sheltered environment of a private English school, Golding was unprepared for the violence unleashed by the war. Joining the Navy, he was injured in an accident involving detonators early in the war, but later was given command of a small rocket-launching craft. Golding was present at the sinking of the Bismarck—the crown ship of the German Navy—and also took part in the D-Day landings in France in June 1944. He later described his experience in the war as one in which "one had one's nose rubbed in the human condition."

After the war, Golding returned to teaching English and philosophy at the same school where he had begun his teaching career. During the next nine years, from 1945 until 1954, he wrote three novels rejected for their derivative nature before finally getting the idea for Lord of the Flies. After reading a bedtime boys adventure story to his small children, Golding wondered out loud to his wife whether it would be a good idea to write such a story but to let the characters "behave as they really would." His wife thought that would be a "first class idea." With that encouragement, Golding found that writing the story, the ideas for which had been germinating in his mind for some time, was simply a matter of getting it down on paper.

Golding went on to write ten other novels plus shorter fiction, plays, essays, and a travel book. His writings include the novels Lord of the Flies (1954), The Inheritors (1955), Pincher Martin (1956), Free Fall (1959), The Spire (1964), Darkness Visible (1979), Rites of Passage (1981), Close Quarters (1987), Fire Down Below (1989), the play The Brass Butterfly (1958), a book of verse called Poems (1934), and two essay collections: The Hot Gates (1965) and A Moving Target (1982). Yet it is his first novel, Lord of the Flies, that made him famous, and for which he will probably remain best known. Golding died of a heart attack on June 28, 1993.

message 3: by Jo (new)

Jo (Jo_Wales) | 62 comments I have just bought my copy and look forward to March 1st. It's one of those books you feel you ought to have read before now but never quite got round to it!

message 4: by Susan (new)

Susan I read this years ago and am looking forward to revisiting it. It has been made into a movie twice that I know of - first being in 1963. That followed the book closely and was so well done, there was no need to try another remake, whcih they did in 1990. The 1990 version strays from the book quite a bit.

message 5: by Cecily (last edited Feb 23, 2009 05:26AM) (new)

Cecily | 576 comments That's good.

It was only after I suggested it that I looked it up on Good Reads.

It seems to be a Marmite book (love it or loathe it, but few in between), so hopefully that should make for interesting discussions...

message 6: by Kipahni (new)

Kipahni | 144 comments I have been wanting to read this book to so I am glad we are doing it!

message 7: by Cecily (last edited Feb 27, 2009 05:46AM) (new)

Cecily | 576 comments This won't be a nice read, but I'm hoping it will be a very interesting one.

Before everyone leaps in, I just thought I'd point out a few broad themes and potential discussion points to bear in mind as you read it (since I'm leading, I cheated and have already finished). As the month progresses, everyone can raise more specific thoughts and questions.

For now, though:

Original sin and nature versus nurture;
Whether ends justify the means;
Bullying and the potential of power to corrupt;
Loyalty and betrayal;
Attitudes to difference and disability;
How would the story be if it was a mixed sex or all female group?

message 8: by Jenny, honorary mod - inactive (new)

Jenny (notestothemoon) | 846 comments Come on library! We really need to start choosing less popular books :P

message 9: by Cecily (new)

Cecily | 576 comments Maybe you should nominate "Unpopular books" as next month's theme? LOL

message 10: by Jenny, honorary mod - inactive (new)

Jenny (notestothemoon) | 846 comments Ha ha ha! That made me laugh.

message 11: by Cecily (last edited Mar 04, 2009 02:00PM) (new)

Cecily | 576 comments Hi folks. The actual discussions are on these topics:

Random chat:

More formal discussion:


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