Lord of the Flies by William Golding

I have wanted to read this book for over two years now, ever since I missed out on studying it at high school because I was in a different class (though I later moved into the class that did study it). I remember the other students talking to me about how dreadful the book was, which, frankly, I was unsurprised at, because most of the time when students say they hate a book, they’d hate almost anything. So I thought that it couldn’t be that bad, and that I should probably get around to reading it at some stage, to see what all the fuss was about this classic psychological tale. Having read it, I can now safely say that I can understand where the students were coming from. For most modern readers, I think it is a tad boring, and a tad confusing. Most would much prefer something like The Hunger Games, which is a book I have seen compared to this one. I don’t think it is a fair comparison, the only similarity is that they are both dystopian books and children kill other children. But I found LotF interesting, not overly enjoyable, but it was a fascinating insight into the descent into ‘barbarianism’ and a great work about psychology. So the book is about a group of young teenagers and children being stranded on an island, after a plane crash during the middle of a war. It is suggested in the book that the plane was broken in two, so that the pilot and any other adults crashed into the ocean and died, whilst the passengers, all children, survived. So the story deals with how these children, who do not know each other (apart from the choir) are going to survive without any adults that they used to rely upon. Of course it starts out well enough (almost like a game), and luckily they actually have food and water on the island, so they don’t starve to death. Predictably things start to take a turn for the worst as the story develops, as the original leadership of Ralph is challenged by Jack, the leader of the choir. I found it quite interesting that the choir becomes the hunters. I guess there’s a form of contrast and perhaps irony, here, that the choir who were presumably were a church choir, became the hunters (and later much worse).

As I said above sometimes it was quite confusing as to what was going on, especially in the beginning, but I think that that was probably intentional, as the boys themselves are confused (and potentially dazed from the accident). Though at other times it was just frustrating, as the characters conversed with very little, sometimes single words, which seemingly made no sense. Though I can get that some communication just doesn’t need words (especially with the twins), but from a reader’s perspective it can be a tad annoying.

Really what makes this book interesting is the psychology of the characters. How quickly things descend into madness, how fear can spread so easily even by a few words, how being isolated can really mess with your mind. It also shows a very interesting insight into group think, in how in group situations, we tend to act almost like a hive in that we like to conform, we don’t want to be outsiders in the group, so we’d rather join in with the group than step back and point out an object to it.

The story does have an allegorical aspect to it, with characters representing various aspects of human nature. Jack the worst sides, and Ralph some of the better sides. Looking this up on wikipedia, I found that ‘the lord of the flies’ (who makes an appearance) is a literal translation of Beelzebub, which is another name for the Devil. This definitely makes sense in terms of the novel, and the lord’s role, and the plot. The conch is also an interesting symbol, it is a symbol of power really in the beginning: he who holds the conch gets to speak. Of course Piggy even with the conch is still ridiculed, and he is quite an interesting character. He is perhaps the only one with sense, and for that reason, he is a threat to Jack. Which is why Piggy clings to the conch so much, and believes it in more than anyone else. Though of course when it breaks, Piggy does also.

Overall this wasn’t my most favourite book. But I’m slowly coming to realise that a book can still be good, despite it not being enjoyable or not caring about the characters (though in this case I did care for some of them). It, once again, is a book that I’d recommend people read. Though they are children, and only part of a story, it does make an interesting psychological read, and it makes you wonder, what would you do in that situation, would you stand up, or would the pressure of the crowd make you conform?

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6 thoughts on “Lord of the Flies by William Golding

  1. I haven’t read this book for a long time, but I remember it being confronting; something I thought about for quite a while after I read it. Have you read The Wave? I think the basis of that one is similar – how easy it is to lose yourself in a crowd’s wishes and let the baser human instincts take over. Whenever there are young people involved, stories like this are more shocking, I think.

    1. It definitely was confronting, and I think the point about children/young people being involved is interesting. I guess it might be because we associate youth with innocence, so seeing unthinkable acts performed by children, it shocks us. I haven’t read The Wave though.

  2. The book is inspired by another novel called The Coral Island which was published almost a hundred years earlier. Have you read this? Seen any of the 3 movies based on Lord of the Flies?

    I should probably read this someday, because it’s the kind of thing I might like.

    1. No I haven’t read (or even heard of before) The Coral Island, I might have to check it out (so many books, so little time). And no I actually haven’t seen any of the movies, which is pretty disgraceful, I seem to have missed so many movies….

      I think it definitely is worth reading at some stage, quite interesting.

      1. Did you watch To Kill a Mockingbird? I think I remember you saying you would get around to it and everyone else should if they weren’t going to read the book.

        1. Yes I saw the movie a few years ago, and thought it was a fantastic adaptation so if you didn’t read the book, the movie would suffice. But the book is exceptional so people should read it anyway.

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