Lord of the Flies by William Golding

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Lord of the Flies: Educational Edition by Golding, William Educational Edition (2004) 

William Golding was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983

Five words from the blurb: boys, marooned, island, transformed, savages

There are several large holes in my reading history and Lord of the Flies was one of the biggest. It is so entrenched in our culture that I felt I knew what it was about, but when I heard it mentioned twice in one day I decided it was time to fill the gap and so got a copy from my local library.

I knew that Lord of the Flies involved a group of boys marooned on a desert island, but didn’t realise it was set during a nuclear war. Most of the rest of the plot was known to me; in fact I think this might be one classic better left unread as I had a far greater opinion of it and its cultural significance before I opened the cover.

The book began well, with some good character development and wonderfully vivid descriptions of the island, but as it progressed I became increasingly frustrated with it. The depiction of life of a desert island was unrealistic and there was no real knowledge of the way the body reacts in a survival situation. I also thought the reactions of the boys was unlikely and the plot became increasingly implausible as it progressed.

I can see why it has become a classic and there are some good messages within it, but I think this is one of those books that might be best read when young as it doesn’t stand up to careful scrutiny.

Overall, it’s a good concept and there are lots of strong, enduring images, but I’m afraid I found it lacked the insight to be convincing.

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6 Comments

  1. Jeane says:

    Ha. I thought this book was awesome when I first read it- and even on the second and third read. But I wonder what I’d think of it now- I haven’t revisited it since high school, and I’ve seen enough of those “survivor” shows to have some idea of what it should be like.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jeane, I think I’d have loved it if I’d read it in my teens, but I’m afraid I’m an outdoorsy person and know a lot about survival situations. I just can’t get absorbed in a book if it isn’t realistic :-(

  2. There seems to be a Lord of the Flies Renaissance going on. Yours is the third post I’ve seen in two days.

    I suspect I would have the same reaction you did if I were to reread it today. I loved it when I was younger. Many of my students think very highly of it, too. But when I listen to them discuss it, I start thinking how unlikely it is. Not that the survival aspects of it are incorrect, I’ll trust your view there, but the way the situation declines and declines into violent chaos. While I believe this could happen, I just don’t see it as inevitable the way the book does.

    I always want to offer up Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl as an antidote.

    1. Jackie says:

      James, It is interesting to know Lord of the Flies has been appearing on other blogs too. I only read it because it seemed to be appearing in the media a lot recently – perhaps that sparked their reading too?

      I agree with you about the violence. I think it quite likely that a group of boys would end up fighting each other, but the way it happened in the book didn’t seem likely at all. Everything happened so quickly and there was no build up of tension. The characters didn’t have time to form an opinion of each other, let alone a deep hatred.

      Thanks for recommending Frankl – it’s a book I’d heard of before, but never really looked into. I’m going to get a copy and give it a try :-)

  3. Interesting! I read this book at school (a long time ago!) and didn’t really like it. It seemed to me to as a teenager to be a male thing – the reversion to savagery etc. Your review doesn’t make me want to re-visit the book, as I don’t think I would be able to disregard how unlikely it is.

    1. Jackie says:

      Margaret, I agree about the maleness of the book – it did just seem like an excuse to show violence. There was no emotional depth and nothing for me to engage with. Such a shame because I had such high expectations.

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