Lord of the Flies Lord of the Flies question

Is LOTF a Critique of the British Upper Class?
Monty J Heying Monty J (last edited Feb 21, 2013 01:39PM ) Jan 21, 2013 10:16PM
The characters are two dimensional, as in a parable from the Bible. We don't even know the last names of more than a couple of characters. The setting was contrived and sketchy. There was only a modest attempt at realism overall, so what we have is a parable, a story with a moral message. Golding seems to be making a statement about the potential for savagery in man.

Or is it that simple?

An obvious premise is that man has innate animal characteristics leading to savagery, or that only children are prone to savage behavior. But this sounds so blaze. It's overstating and extrapolating the obvious. For what purpose?

The case presented for savagery among civilized beings was a thin one. It's unrealistic to assert that educated teenagers from a civilized society, where we're taught right from wrong at an early age, would revert to savagery without some overwhelming provocation such as starvation or panic. I could see one or two behaving badly, but they would have been brought into line by their peers.

These kids are from educated upper middle-class families and would have, one would expect, a firm grounding in the value of human life.

So, does LOTF harbor a subtle hidden meaning?

A third option nags at me because the characters appear to be all from the British upper-middle class. Is Golding alluding to a proclivity among them toward savagery?

The boys' parents are rich enough to send them aboard an aircraft and they appear to be dressed in boarding school uniforms. A school sweater bearing a designating coat of arms was described, along with shields on choir uniforms, perhaps signifying an elite all male British boarding school featuring choir membership.

Prior to publishing Lord of the Flies, Golding taught at an exclusive all-male boarding school attached to Salisbury Cathedral. I read that he was often distressed by the savage behavior of some of the students. I've yet to find where he ever taught working-class students, so his teaching universe concentrated in the British upper-middle classes.

There is well-documented historical disregard for human life in the British aristocracy in their pursuit of riches abroad, e.g., the massacre of unarmed civilians in Amritsar, India; the Boer atrocities; the Opium Wars and two centuries of profiteering from slavery. (The Nazis had to come along to make the Brits look good.) It's not at all inconceivable that some of Golding's pupils were descended from those who committed crimes against humanity.

The book's title calls attention to the nobility. Was Golding pointing an oblique finger at the British aristocacy? He was certainly in a unique position to do so.

I'm not sure how much it would change your interpretation of the book, but but I don't believe the boys' flight was paid for by their parents. A frequently forgotten detail of the story is that they were being evacuated due to nuclear war. The very fact that there were no adult passengers on the plane (or at least, not enough for any to have survived) suggests that it was not a commercial flight.

Also, I'm not sure whether or not there's any hint that they're wearing boarding school uniforms (though it's been long enough since I read it that I may be forgetting something). It doesn't seem as though they're all from the same school, in any case. Overall, I just don't think there's that much of a case to be built for the boys being upper class--certainly not to the point of them representing the aristocracy.

Finally, the ending of the book doesn't seem to suggest anything about class. The Naval officer arrives on the beach, sees the mayhem, and says that he would have expected better from British boys. The focus seems to be on British rather than any particular class: in this final, crucial passage, the officer notices how even children/people from a civilised society will turn savage without the rule of law.

I don't think it's about what might happen, it's about what does happen. Cruelty, cowardice, the tendency to side with the strong, the majority or the mainstream and the need to find scapegoats to hate, blame or define our group are tendencies we all have. We all do these things to greater or lesser extents, if we're honest.

Peter Budd wrote: "Monty, you are funny, people will almost never select leaders based on those qualities. They will select them based on fear, superstition ...more
Jan 29, 2013 09:11AM
Peter Monty J wrote: "Pete wrote: "Leaders who are rational inteligent like Mahmoud Ahmadinajad, Robert Mugabe, Saddam Hussein, George Dubbel-ya etc..."

Jan 29, 2013 09:13AM

LotF is a critique of Rousseau's idea of a natural man, intrinsically good, who is only corrupted by the influence of civilization. Perhaps aimed at socialism. Of course, assuming that man is naturally selfish and aggressive is the basis of capitalism and we can see where that has got us.

I really wonder why people overanalsyze everything instead of writing their own stories about a topic that interests them. Because more than often you only see what you want to see.

The idea that we have become civilised beyond the barbaric by education, wealth and progress, is a deceit that was exposed by 2 World wars and many of the news stories that we read/hear to date. Goulding's experiences and perceptions of the second World War informed some of his later writing.

It is a parable of society without order. Children are essentially the best characters for this type of book because children lack the decision making skills and impulse control adults do and are less likely to think of the consequences of their actions until after the fact.

I don't think he was targeting upper class British children. Children in general, are prone to savagery, just as much as adults are. And why might it be unrealistic to suggest children from a civilized society can behave in such ways depicted in the book? It does not matter where or how you were educated; when you're stranded with strangers, someone needs to take charge and there will inevitably be conflicts of interest that arise.

I think Golding was pointing a cloaked critical finger at society in general. It's a well-documented fact that people will, in times of want, regress to savagery.

The mob rule is a strong driving force in humans. Society keeps that in check, but when society is removed and consequences for actions are eliminated, people will act brutally, savagely, and without conscience.

I think LOTF is a frightening look into what could happen without rules and consequences to all of society. Even in more "primitive" cultures, there are rules and expectations with consequences to one's actions. When everyone decides it's okay to behave a certain way, it becomes the norm.

I agree with what Monty says in that the novel portrays a specific group of kids, the products of an elitist education system. But I absolutely do not believe an attack on the ruling class was what Golding intended. Order is restored at the end by a British naval officer. That says it all. The novel is prized by the ruling class just as Animal Farm is: its simple and reactionary message is that only a thin veneer of civilisation separates us from savagery, so respect the institutions of class society. I used to have to teach this rubbish at comp and couldn't wait to finish it and get onto Kes.

I think it's broader at that and is a microcosm of society in general, and how it will collapse without rule.

No, cause there wasn't an old lady taking money from everybody.

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