Lord of the Flies is no stranger to those who have to read this as a literature text during high school. I first saw the 1963 (it could be the 1990, can’t remember now) movie in a late night TV before I read the book, but didn’t stay long to finish it. I remembered the image of high school boys stranded in a no-man’s island, holding spears with their loincloths ..….
Lord of the Flies, by William Golding is the story of a group of English boys trapped on a deserted island. In an attempt to be rescued, the boys begin to cultivate their own civilization with structure and orders. This all too quickly falls apart. They decide that they must build a large fire and kept it burning so that they can be rescued. By day they frolic on golden beaches and swim in sparkling waters. But at night they dream of a hideous beast roaming the island. Soon, their fear brings out the worst in them and they begin to act like savage animals.
Golding uses the premise to explore the rules of civilisation and savagery. When the boys first crash on the island their instinct is to create rules; a leader, a designated place to wash and sleep, assigning roles to different groups so that the camp runs smoothly. The older boys soon take charge. A group of them became hunters. When conflict arises between the leader with the conch Ralph, and the leader of the hunter Jack, the rules of camp are threaten and the camp divides into two.
One thing I could relate to was the message about leadership and management. Tell me if the following passage doesn’t remind you of those ineffective meetings they have in the corporate world?
‘We have lots of assemblies. Everybody enjoys speaking and being together. We decide things. But they don’t get done. We were going to have water brought from the stream and left in those coconut shells under the fresh leaves. So it was, only for a few days. Now there’s no water. The shells are dry. People drink from the river.’ – Page 85
And this about the need to simplify your message so that the masses would understand….
‘The thing is: we need an assembly’
Ralph flourished the conch. He had learnt as a practical business that fundamental statements like this have to be said at least twice, before everyone understood them. One had to sit, attracting all eyes to the conch, and drop words like heavy round stones among the little groups that crouched or squatted. He was searching his mind for simple words so that even the littluns would understand what the assembly was about. Later perhaps, practised debaters – Jack, Maurice, Piggy wh0 would use their whole art to twist the meeting? but now at the beginning the subject of the debate must be laid out clearly. – page 84.
Every leader has an advisor, so Ralph depends on a fat, bespectacled boy nicknamed Piggy for advice. Piggy is the boy who has “ass-mar” and his glasses were the only thing which could start a fire and it soon became a prized possession. Piggy complements Ralph’s inability to think wisely but unfortunately Piggy was no chief, in modern words, “do not have leadership quality”.
Lord of the Flies is a short classic of children’s lives mirroring the adult sphere and, like so many other books lodged in the annuals of high school literature, too often is read at an age when a person is most likely to lack the understanding of the full implications of the novel. I am not sure if this is always a good idea. Reading has its time. Some books are better read when we are older.
I expected brutality and death but the book still feels creepy and I was mildly shocked at some parts of the book. The story ends up being like a horrible accident we can see coming but can do nothing about, nor can we look away. The novel also explores the loss of innocence and death is central to the book.
The book teeters between the reality and the surreal, so when the pig head on the stick start to talk, I am reminded of a scene in “The Beach” by Alex Garland when the main character began to hallucinate. I was intrigued to find out how the book would end and I breathed a sigh of relief when it actually ends well.
This isn’t quite my kind of book, but read this as a parable, an allegory, a myth, a moral story, a parody, a political satire, some of you may enjoy this a little bit more than I do.
Perhaps I might re-read this again or watch the movie and this time I will finish it.
If you are curious why the book is called Lord of the Flies, here’s what Wikipedia says:
The Lord of the Flies
Namesake of the novel, the Lord of the Flies is literally a pig’s head that has been cut off by Jack, put on a stick sharpened at both ends, stuck in the ground, and offered to the “beast”. Created out of fear, the Lord of the Flies used to be a mother sow who, though at one time clean, loving, and innocent, has now become a manically smiling, bleeding last image of horror. And near the end of the book, while Ralph is being hunted down, he strikes this twice in one moment of blind anger, causing it to crack and fall on the floor with a grin “now six feet wide”. This transformation clearly represents the transformation that Jack and the boys have undergone during their time in the island. In addition, the name “Lord of the Flies” is the literal English translation of Beelzebub, a demonic figure that is often considered synonymous with Satan. The Lord of the Flies is a physical manifestation of the animalistic nature that is in the boys and the pig. The theme of this story is an attempt to trace the defects of society to the defects of human nature.
“The whole book was a joy to read. It was mildly shocking in some parts and I can only imagine how shocking and controversial it must have been when it was first released.” Literary Word Blogspot
“What I liked best about the book is how Golding so skillfully took the story from innocent fun to the horror of murder.” - Steph @ So Many Books
Paperback. Publisher: Faber and Faber 1954; Length: 225 pages; Setting: Deserted island. Source: Own copy. Finished reading at: 15 February 2011.
About the Author:
Sir William Golding was born in Cornwall in 1911. He was educated at Marlborough Grammar School and at Brasenose College, Oxford, after which he worked as an actor, a lecturer, a small craft sailor, a musician and finally a school-master. He joined the Royal Navy in 1940, and saw action against battleships, submarines and aircraft. He was present at the sinking of Bismarch, and finished the war as a Lieutenant in command of a rocket ship. After the war he returned to Bishop Wordsworth’s School in Salisbury and was there when his first novel, Lord of the Flies was published in 1954. He gave up teaching in 1961, and went on to write 12 more novels.
He won the Booker Prize for his novel Rites of Passage in 1980, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983. At this time he moved from the Wiltshire village where he had lived for half a century, to a fine house near Truro in Cornwall. He was knighted in 1988. He died at his home in the summer of 1993, leaving a draft of a novel The Double Tongue, which was published posthumously.
Controversial confessions by the author in his biography of attempted rape while he was in his teens and pitting boys against each other in school marred his otherwise accomplished literary career.