We have owned a copy of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies for as long as I can remember. As a young child, I always enjoyed going through and looking at every single book on our big bookshelf…except one, that is. I always avoided that small, worn-out, paperback copy of Lord of the Flies. The cover art always freaked me out, and I never took it off the shelf for fear of seeing the scary guy in the jungle on the front. I had never even read the summary until just recently, when I was re-organizing my bookshelf over 10 years after originally seeing the book. When I finally picked up that old copy of William Golding’s masterpiece after avoiding it for all those years, little did I know that I would shortly be entering into one of the most haunting and powerful stories ever written.
Around the beginning of World War II, a group of British schoolboys are stranded on a desert island after a plane crash. With no adults to govern them, they initially rejoice at their new-found freedom, but quickly realize that something must be done to maintain order and civilization. They attempt to develop their own society by electing Ralph (one of the main characters) as chief, and assigning jobs to one another in order to contribute to their united goal – survival. However, things quickly go awry when rumors of a monster arise – a terrible Beast that is rumored to be living alongside the boys on the island. Conflict and chaos ensue as the boys struggle with power and evil, the terror of The Beast ultimately reigning among them and consuming their every thought. As a result, the boys begin to descend into savagery and violence, their humanity slipping away bit by bit. This brilliant yet haunting work of fiction closely examines human nature, the end of innocence, and the darkness of man’s heart.
THINGS I LIKED
The Setting – As you read Lord of the Flies, it is as if the island itself becomes a character, and adds to the depth of the story. The island and it’s inhabitants play a massive role throughout the progression of the book, and provide the boys with everything they need to stay alive. The character of the island undergoes a major development as well – completely transforming from being bright, exciting, and fun in the beginning, to becoming an ominous and horrible place by the end.
The Characters – There are such a wide range of characters in Lord of the Flies, and they each have unique traits and represent different elements of our society. However, there are four main characters in this story who are the most famous. The first is Ralph, who is elected to be the chief of the society, and does his best to maintain order and civilization throughout the group. Jack is the leader of the hunters, and loves to go on wild pig hunts with his gang of boys. Piggy is the intellectual one, whose glasses, brain, insight, and wisdom play a major role in the community. And last, but definitely not least, there is Simon. He tends to be pretty quite, and often steals away into the jungle alone to think and enjoy the solitude and beauty of nature. Each character has different morals and opinions regarding what is right, and their beliefs shape the entire book.
The Symbolism – From a conch shell that is found on the beach to Ralph’s hair and Piggy’s glasses, there are multiple everyday items in Lord of the Flies that seem simple enough, yet each represent something that adds to the plot and theme of the story. Take Ralph’s hair, for example. In the second half of the book, Ralph is often bothered by the length of his hair, as he and the boys don’t have tools to cut it with. He complains of how he always must brush it out of his eyes and away from his face, and how he wishes it was shorter. While at first this only seems to illustrate the passing of time on the island, at a closer glance, Ralph’s hair demonstrates the boys’ slow but steady passage into savagery. With their long hair comes violence, terror, madness, and a depart from human civilization. Ralph’s hair is only one of the many items in this book whose symbolism carries meaning beyond the first glance.
The Climax/After-Thoughts – I made the mistake of reading the last 50 pages or so of this book late at night in my bed, and let me tell you – I was on the edge of my seat the entire. time. My heart was pounding so hard that I could literally hear it banging inside my chest. I’m serious – the climax of this book is so horrifyingly amazing. It is extremely well-written, and the suspense is so thick that you could cut it with a knife. After I finished the book, I couldn’t fall asleep partly because of the adrenaline rush I had just experienced, and also because I was thinking about the overall story and it’s symbolisms. I remember closing the book and thinking, “What did I just read?!” I spent the next several days reading articles and online study guides, dissecting and examining all the different elements of this story. As you know from my Hunger Games post, I love psychological stories that examine human nature and society, so I was naturally captivated by this book.
The Title – If you’ve read this far, you may be wondering, “Ok, it’s a story about schoolboys on an island that try to form a civilization – how does the title Lord of the Flies tie in?” Well my friend, I was wondering the same thing until about mid-way through the book when the pieces started to fit together. Throughout the story, the children become dirty, unkempt, and wild, as illustrated by Ralph’s hair. As fear and madness slowly begin to take over them, the boys subconsciously begin to seek a “god” or “idol” to worship. The perfect opportunity arises when a group of boys kills a wild pig. They mount the pig’s head on a stick and leave it in the jungle as an “offering” to The Beast, whom they have come to view as a terrifying yet respected “religious” figure. The pig’s head is soon rotting and covered with flies, and it is named “lord of the flies.” The pigs head comes to represent the end of the boys’ innocence, the power-struggle between them, and their descent into utter savagery.
THINGS I DISLIKED
I sometimes struggled with understanding what was going on in the story simply because of the way this book was written. Lord of the Flies was published in the 1950’s, so it was obviously written differently than the more modern books that are being read today. The overall writing style was excellent, but left me a little confused at certain points in the story. I also found that the plot seemed to move rather slow in the middle of the book, and I became slightly dis-interested with the story at some parts. Other than that, I have nothing bad to say about Lord of the Flies.
I’m giving Lord of the Flies by William Golding 5 out of 5 stars because of all the reasons mentioned above. Despite the minor issues I had with understanding the writing and the story progression slowing down in the middle, I really enjoyed reading and studying this book as a whole.
Now that I’m older and have read the book, I have a completely different view of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. When I look at the cover that used to scare me in a childish way, I think of long hair, conch shells, fires, and glasses. I think of four boys and their different personalities and morals. I think of the terrifying climax and the abrupt end. But mostly, I think of how William Golding crafted an amazing yet horrifying story that everyone should read and study – a story about our society, human nature, and the darkness that lives in our world. Yes, it still scares me, but I am comforted by the knowledge that light will always overcome darkness, and nothing can, or ever will, change that.
I hope you found this review helpful, and that you’ll consider reading Lord of the Flies– you won’t regret it.
Have a great week!