Title: Lord of the Flies
Author: William Golding
Page Count: 202
Original Publication Date: 1954
Genre(s): Classics, Fiction, Middle-grade
During an emergency evacuation, a plane crashes onto a deserted island. Many die and are swept out to sea, but a group of young, British boys have somehow survived the accident and are now stranded, alone, without grownups. The group quickly elects a chief: an elder boy named Ralph. Another boy, Jack, becomes the leader of the hunters. Together, this group of boys struggles to survive and resist absolute chaos. But on a deserted island with no rules or authority, the boys soon realize that man’s inner instincts kick in, and any humanity dissipates. Chaos ensues.
Ah, here’s to another classic I never read growing up. Now that I’ve finally finished it, I can sadly say I truly wasn’t missing much.
The story is told in third-person with a general focus on Ralph, the boy elected as chief on the island. We follow Ralph as he basks in the glory of being wild, free, and grownup-less, but slowly realizes nothing will ever be accomplished without rules and authority. It is very much a coming-of-age story and is definitely still relevant today. The first 150 pages or so are dreadfully boring, unfortunately, and this severely affected my opinion of the novel. The last 50 pages, however, made my stomach turn and genuinely made me uncomfortable. Seriously, this story goes from 0 to 100 real fast and I was not prepared. (How I managed to avoid spoilers of a book written over 50 years ago, I’ll never know.) I think the novel is a great story for younger kids to read, despite the violence, and hopefully it’s a little more interesting to them than it was for me. I wish I’d read it as a kid.
Another thing I was disappointed with: the novel opens with the boys waking up on the island. I realize that this gives mystery and suspense to the story and blurs the distinction of time and place, buuuuuut when the synopsis of a story involves a plane crash, I expect to read about it. It would have been an exciting opener, for sure. This is more of a personal complaint, honestly.
So even though it was pretty slow, the last 50 pages saved Lord of the Flies from a 2-star rating. I think it’s an important novel for people to read, especially kids, because it introduces an excellent conversation about civility, humanity, and the difference (but important necessity) of both the “chiefs” and the “hunters” of society.
Immediately, we get a sense of what role each character is going to play. Ralph, of course, being the leader and main character, holds a lot of responsibility and, at first, public support. That support slowly fades as Ralph comes of age, starts “thinking” instead of just doing, and tries to enforce sensible rules and establish concrete authority. It’s interesting to follow his character arc, because at first I severely disliked this character, but found myself rooting for him by the end of the novel.
Jack, the lead hunter, can quickly be seen as an adversary of Ralph. He obviously wants to be chief and is often embarrassed when the group sways towards Ralph or ignores his own accomplishments. We can assume that by the end of the novel, Jack is probably going to be a big problem for Ralph, as the tension between the two slowly builds.
Piggy—poor, poor Piggy—is stuck in the middle between these two. Unfortunately, we never get Piggy’s true name, and even referring to him as Piggy here in this review make me sad. Boys can be cruel. People can be cruel. As I was saying, poor Piggy is the voice of reason and rationality. None of the boys like him nor pay any attention to him, except for Ralph (occasionally, though more frequently as the story progresses) and Jack (solely because he dislikes Piggy so much and wants to make fun of him). Most notably, though, he provides the only female voice in the novel, as he is constantly quoting his aunt.
There are many other boys with varying personalities, but I have to say the only character I liked from start to finish was Simon. Best character award goes to Simon. Thank you, William Golding, for giving me a character to like, but also I take that back because of the story’s ending…
Though the majority of the story bored me, the writing was impeccable. Golding’s writing was detailed, descriptive, and distinctively British. I could have enjoyed more suspense, and I wish the first half would have been a little more interesting, but I have no complaints about the writing itself.
I am happy I read this novel, and would like to watch the film, but it’s not a book I’m interested in reading again any time soon. I did hear Hollywood is making a gender-swapped adaptation, and I can’t say I’m particularly thrilled with this choice, but you know me: I’ll probably go see it.
“He wanted to explain how people were never quite what you thought they were.”
“If faces were different when lit from above or below — what was a face? What was anything?”
“The greatest ideas are the simplest.”
“The thing is – fear can’t hurt you any more than a dream.”