Lord of the Flies was the book chosen for me by the recent Classics Club spin. Somehow, I managed to make it through all of secondary school and an English Literature A-Level without having to read this book, and it's always felt like a bit of a gap in my reading history. The story centres around a group of English schoolboys, mysteriously stranded on a desert island. In the absence of adults, they set about electing a chief and dividing up the chores necessary for survival in a fair and democratic way. At first everything goes well, but gradually the society they have attempted to build starts to break down as their more savage natures and desires come to the forefront.
I really liked Lord of the Flies. It's a short, easy to read classic that explores a particular theme (the darker side of humanity) very well. Golding does a great job of showing the gradual decline of the boys into violence; at the beginning of the novel none of them can stomach even killing a pig for food, but by the end they think nothing of performing extremely violent acts against each other. There's a lot of talk of rules, and of rules being what holds societies together, and as soon as someone breaks the rules, things do start to decline. Lord of the Flies exposes how thin what we call civilisation really is, something that we see all too often in real life in the event of civil wars and genocides.
Something I was interested in as I read the book was the whole issue of belonging to a group, and how it can make you act in a certain way. When Ralph is chief at the beginning of the novel and clearly in charge, the other children responded the way he wanted them to. But when Jack forms a rival group, complete with war paint, the same children act completely differently. Their costumes become a mask that lets them act in ways they would never have acted back in England, and their actions are sanctioned by being part of the group. Again, this is something we definitely see in real life, so Golding's analysis is spot on.
I didn't find Lord of the Flies as shocking as I thought I was going to. I knew the basic idea of the story before starting, but not the specifics, and I knew that the thought of these nice middle-class English boys being so violent caused a stir at the time. But it didn't shock me, as their decline into 'savagery' just made perfect sense in the novel. We do all have a darker side and impulses that we would never normally act on, and history is full of examples of groups of people taking things too far.
Still, Lord of the Flies was a thought provoking and enjoyable read. I think it's more of an 'ideas' book than a story, although the plot does move along at a brisk pace and the events are engaging. The characters fit the ideas first and foremost, which meant that I didn't have an emotional connection with them, and this stopped Lord of the Flies from becoming a favourite of mine.
Source: Personal copy
First Published: 1954
Edition Read: Penguin Modern Classics, 1964
Score: 4 out of 5
The Classics Club: Book 27/72
My full list of classics to read can be found here.
I've somehow managed to go through education without reading Lord of the Flies either! The book sounds really interesting and is one I've been meaning to read for some time - thanks for reminding me about it!ReplyDelete
I don't know how we both managed to escape it!Delete
I read it at school, both my boys read it at school and then my stepson read it at school... I think that's why I've never actually read it again as an adult. I have been meaning to, but then there was a child reading it and somehow, I didn't...I think, perhaps, because all three of them responded to it pretty much as I did at their respective ages! It's on my list of books to be re-read, some time in the future... Good to read your review of it though, and hear an adult point of view about it!ReplyDelete
I quite like re-reading books I first read at school, as I normally have a completely different reaction to them as an adult....Delete
I have wanted to read this one for years - perhaps this September during Banned Books Week.ReplyDelete
It would be a great pick for Banned Books week, especially as it is so short.Delete
I liked this book when I read it, but I'm glad I never had to read it in high school...I'm not sure I would've liked it then. I read it when I was out of college and could appreciate it for what it said about society and rules, etc. a lot more than I would've at a younger age. Great post.ReplyDelete
I think I would have found it a bit shocking in school, as I was very naive about human nature! I agree I've taken more out of it as an adult though.Delete
I have always been nervous about this book. I heard when I was a kid that there was some cannibalism in this book and ever since this book has been associated with something bad. Even though I'm an adult now and have come across cannibalism in several media, I feel very hesitant to read this one. I'm glad to read that this book wasn't as shocking to you as you thought it may be. I am hoping it will be like that for me.ReplyDelete
There isn't any cannibalism in the book and the actual violence is relatively mild - it's more that it is children being violent that is shocking, rather than the violence itself. So it may be easier to read than you are expecting...Delete
I never had to read Lord of the Flies in school, so I read it on my own in eleventh grade. It was...fine? I didn't have anything against it, but I also wasn't that impressed.ReplyDelete
I think I would have liked reading it as part of a class - there's lots in there to discuss. Maybe you would have liked it more that way?Delete
This is one of those books that so many people I know read for high school, but I never did. I have my brother's school copy on my shelf that I'd like to read at some point. It's such a little book, I think I should be able to find a spot for it on my Classics Club list :)ReplyDelete
Never read this, and for some reason its not one I've ever been all that interested in reading.ReplyDelete
This was one of my favorites from my school days, and a book I've often meant to re-read. I'll get 'round to it one day!ReplyDelete
I read this a reaaaally long time ago, but I remember not liking it that much EXCEPT for the last little bit that I won't talk about because spoilers, but it was really eye opening for me. Hopefully you know what I'm talking about, otherwise this is just an especially ridiculous comment!ReplyDelete