“Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart…”
Remember, when G.R.R. Martin’s Game Of Thrones first became popular and people were amazed at how he killed off main characters and hopeful story lines? I imagine that this is what the reaction was like when William Golding’s Lord Of The Flies was published in 1954.
Keep in mind that up to this point the public had been reading jolly old adventure stories of polite little boys on deserted islands. Lord Of The Flies might seem like that in the beginning, but as the novel develops the plot becomes much more sinister.
I was lucky enough to have a 1964 educational copy of this book lying around at home. Reading the ancient and scribbled student study notes in the margins definitely added to the experience as did the questions-to-ponder section for each chapter at the end.
The book begins with a mysterious crash landing on the island. The boys seem to have safely escaped death thanks to a special emergency capsule. The only reference to death is towards the pilot. The world, it seems, is at war.
We are immediately introduced to Ralph and Piggy who discover a huge seashell (referred too as a conch) in the water. When blown into, the conch makes a siren-like call and this brings all the other boys on the island to assembly. Ralph is elected chief and some of the bigger boys go on an early joyous exploration of the island.
As the novel develops, this joy and curiosity slowly becomes replaced. The power of the conch to call everyone back into the order of a civilised assembly dissipates. Golding’s writing brilliantly deals with themes such as fear and the native savagery that comes all to easily to boys (and mankind.)
Attempts to share responsibility and retain responsibility and decorum are replaced with warpaint, hunting and cruelty. In this respect, Lord Of The Flies is still a shocking read when you consider how quickly things fall apart when these boys are left alone on a desert island. The real suckerpunch though comes when you consider that what happens in Lord Of The Flies is the perfect allegory for the behaviour of all of humanity on planet Earth. A brilliant read and deservedly considered a classic.
“What are we? Humans? Or animals? Or savages?”