William Golding's Lord of the Flies
Children's book review by Jane Finch
Life on a deserted island is certainly not as expected for a group of British schoolboys
William Golding wrote Lord of the Flies in 1954. At the time it only sold about 3,000 copies in America and subsequently went out of print. However, it later went on to become a best seller and has twice been made into a film.
The story features a group of British schoolboys and is set during a War. Their plane crashes on an isolated island and no adults survive. They are left to fend for themselves.
With no adults to lead and advise, a virtual War ensues. Two factions emerge, the hunters led by Jack, and the peacemakers led by Ralph.
The hunters soon appear to revert to savagery as they kill their first pig, whereas Ralph struggles to keep a semblance of normality with his small group.
One of Ralph’s group is a young boy with the unfortunate nickname of Piggy. His true name is never known. Piggy is plump, and wears glasses, and has a very mature opinion of what is right and wrong. He soon becomes the subject of ridicule amongst the others. Ralph tries to look after Piggy, but gradually more and more of the boys find themselves overtaken by savage instincts and join Jack’s group.
Soon anarchy rules and Ralph finds himself fleeing for his life. Poor Piggy is killed and Jack and his gang begin burning the island to flush Ralph out of his hiding place.
By pure luck the fire attracts the attention of a passing warship and the boys are rescued. The naval officer is not at first aware of the extent of what has been happening on the island, and believes the boys were playing a game.
It is the sight of the adult amongst them that brings the boys out of their savage animalistic behaviour.
Lord of the Flies is one of the books that will stay with the reader. The way the boys’ behaviour deteriorates so quickly and horribly is really frightening and the reader is in a quandary because they can see so clearly where it is all heading but are powerless to do anything about it. That is the mastery of Golding’s storytelling.
Of course, The Lord of the Flies is now a classic. There are many allegorical relationships, such as Ralph the blonde, good looking boy who is initially elected as leader. He is polite, sensible and considerate. Ralph epitomises civilisation.
Jack is the embodiment of everything bad about human nature. As the story progresses Jack’s behaviour deteriorates into savagery and he and Ralph come into direct conflict. Thus the battle between good and evil.
There is much to be taken from Lord of the Flies, not only the unforgettable storyline, but the underlying implication that without structure, rules and authority we may all end up living in a War zone.
Most readers would hope they would represent the calm and dignified Ralph, but perhaps there is the deep fear that Jack might just be lurking beneath the surface.
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