I know what you’re thinking: this is just another high school novel forced upon adolescents everywhere. That was the first thought that ran across my mind when I saw this title. I actually had no idea what to expect. Lord of the Flies. The title doesn’t give away much, and the book’s so old the back summary only contained praise. So I plunged straight into a surprise when I began, and I would be lying if I said I loved it right away.
Let me inform you what the story is. Maybe this will prevent any more literary ignorance. The Lord of the Flies illustrates a story about a group of boys who get stranded on an island. The island is completely uninhabited, and the boys must learn how to fend for themselves. As time goes by and no rescuers make an appearance, the boys become more and more antsy. Arguments begin and sides are taken. With no adults to calm them, the boys’ antics at playing savage take a turn for the worst.
First, I need to make a disclaimer. I have no concept of allegories or symbolism or motifs hidden in stories. It’s ironic, because since I read so much, I should be a little better at this. Sadly, no matter how much practice I’ve had, I still haven’t the faintest idea of the underlying meanings in books.
That being said, this one was blatantly obvious. One scene basically summed it all up pretty nicely. The novel shows the loss of innocence, which is especially noticeable towards the end. It also portrays organization vs. chaos. The two sides the children split into represent the difference between order and savagery. One group is concerned with keeping up a smoke signal for ships, and the other has come to terms with their new home and busies themselves with play and hunting. It also demonstrates order is much more difficult to obtain and can be lost faster than chaos. Laying under the stars and eating meat turns out to be much more enjoyable than worrying about shelters and keeping up smoke signals for the boys.
I have to say I wasn’t in love with the beginning. It started out slow and confusing. Golding never explained how the children got stuck there, and the multitude of characters without names made it difficult to keep up with events. I even had to Sparknote a chapter towards the middle because I had no idea what was happening. Golding writes in a 3rd person perspective and doesn’t really let the reader connect with any of the characters through anything but actions.
The rest of the book, I adored. Once I got past the question how they got stranded (which was never answered), I could enjoy the book much more. Also, after the confusing chapter, the book picked up speed. The boys’ personalities shown through, and the reader began to feel the hopelessness that was edging into the backs of their minds.
**SPOILER ALERT** (I know, it is old. But you never know who hasn’t read it! I got The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as well as The Great Gatsby spoiled by the same person.)
Can we just talk about the deaths in the book? Simon’s death after the scene which explained the deeper meaning in the book killed me. I was horrified the children would literally tear him apart with their bare hands. After his death, the situation became real to me. The boys began to break off into groups and I started to worry about the other characters I liked such as Piggy or Ralph.
I was absolutely right to worry. Piggy and Ralph split off from the others, and in a despute, Someone pushed a boulder onto Piggy! From the very beginning I connected with him. He represented the intelligent and rational mind of the kids, and he was so sweet and soft. I could tell from the very first page his death was coming, though.
The ending made me just plain sad. I felt so empty after I finished the book. Once the solider rescued Ralph from the other kids hunting him down like a wild pig, everything just stopped. The children, ranging from 5-12, seemed so ridiculous after contact with the outside world. They turned into savages and killed and hunted each other for no real reason.
I could just imagine all of them slowly appearing on the outskirts of the trees. Their faces smeared with blood and dirt, and their clothes tattered and filthy. They would look around and realize they can go home, and they’re safe. Then they’ll begin to realize what senile events they’ve gone through and instigated. Those thought will continue to haunt them for the rest of their lives. They have death on their hands. Images of Piggy being crushed and Simon’s small lifeless figure will never leave their minds. All innocence is gone forever.
Another symbol was the officer who retrieved the boys. He saved them from a manhunt, but now he’s going to embark on a manhunt just like theirs during the war. The beast inside them all never goes away. The Lord of the Flies is not a live being; it’s a monster which is present inside us all. The children turning to savages represents this idea. Nobody can save you from the monster. It continues whether you reside on a deserted island with children or whether you’re a grown man heading to war.
I love books that make me think; this one surely did. Despite the slow start, I grew to love it all the same. The more I think about it, the more I realize how wonderful this book is. Horrifyingly beautiful.