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So, yeah – for better or for worse – prepare for an unforgettable story.
Who Should Read “Lord of the Flies”? And Why?
Judging by the title, you’d think that “Lord of the Flies” is a book which may attract primarily the attention of forensic scientists. (Maybe the entomologist’s answer to “Horse Whisperer”?)
However, if you know your Bible enough, you have probably seen that name before used in a completely different context. And when we say completely different context, we’re not exactly honest. Just as flies, it still has a lot to do with filth and death.
Pure filth and pure death.
You see, “Lord of the Flies” is a literal translation of the name Beelzebub, who, on top of putting a devil aside for Freddie Mercury, seems to have been able to put a devil inside everybody back in the days of yore.
Because Beelzebub is nothing short of Satan.
And, consequently, “Lord of the Flies” is nothing short of an allegorical novel about human evil. Exploring whether it is an inherent trait. It’s also a book about civilization and savagery, about individualism and crowds.
So, in a way, this book is about you.
You must read it.
William Golding Biography
Sir William Golding was a British novelist, poet, and playwright – one of the most respected English-language writers of the 20th century. In fact, he was ranked third best by “The Times” in their list of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945, trailing only Philip Larkin and George Orwell.
He studied natural sciences at Oxford, and he served in the Royal Navy during the Normandy invasion. Expectedly, he incorporated many of these experiences in his books.
In 1980, “Rites of Passage” – which would become the first part of the “To the Ends of the World” trilogy – won Golding a Booker Prize. Three years later, he was also awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Remember that scene in “The Office” when Michael Scott talks about how much he loves babies?
“If a baby were president,” he concludes his speech, “there would be no taxes, there would be no war. There would be no… government, and… things could get terrible. It actually, probably, it would be a better… screenplay idea than a serious suggestion.”
Well, Michael Scott is right – write “a child” instead of “a baby” and you pretty much have the short summary of “Lord of the Flies,” a book so good it got adapted into three separate movies during the past half a century.
And we hear that there’s a fourth one coming next year, this one featuring an all-female cast.
But, to properly understand what’s happening in “Lord of the Flies” you need to know a little something about some funny folks we now call Victorians and a guy named R. M. Ballantyne.
You see, the former were a pretty condescending bunch, dividing the world into savages, civilized men and, well, British. Being a British himself, R. M. Ballantyne thought no different.
So, in 1857, he wrote “The Coral Island,” a YA classic about three British teenagers (Jack, Ralph, and Peterkin) who are shipwrecked on the coral reef of a South Pacific island.
You’d expect the boys to have some problems, right?
Well, they do, but, being British themselves, they are “best at everything.” So, they survive and even manage to convert the Polynesians (both friends and enemies) into God-loving Christians.
Now, William Golding – just as R. L. Stevenson – loved the book.
He enjoyed very much the adventures, the exotic descriptions, the meetings with pirates.
But he never bought the moral of the story. Because, in a way, the moral was that the British were best at everything. And that, ultimately, good prevails.
So, he wrote “Lord of the Flies.”
The premise is the same: during a wartime evacuation, boys (in this case, many) survive a plane crash and are left stranded on an isolated Pacific Island.
We are introduced to Ralph and “Piggy,” two boys who find a conch on an uninhabited beach and use it to gather all the other survivors.
Piggy is an overweight asthmatic boy with glasses; Ralph is a fair-haired fellow who knows a thing or two about responsibilities. Almost naturally, once the other survivors arrive, he is accepted as a leader of the group.
However, a third guy, the red-haired choir leader, Jack Merridew, wants to be a leader himself. So, there’s an election. Ralph gets most of the votes, but Jack (naturally) gets all of the votes from his choir members.
So, even though Ralph assumes the position of group leader, he allows Jack and his choir to form a separate faction of hunters, responsible for getting the others food.
Ralph believes that the boys will eventually be saved, so one of the three policies he establishes is constantly mending a smoke signal on the top of a hill.
We’re talking about children on a desert island, so the other two policies are as straightforward: to survive and to have some fun.
But fun quickly turns into mayhem after Jack gathers his crew for a hunting trip, leaving the fire untended in the meantime. Jack’s hunters manage to kill a wild pig, but, unfortunately, a ship travels by the island during the exact same period.
Without the smoke signal, it continues without stopping.
Ralph confronts Jack, to which Jack replies by angrily attacking Piggy, hitting him and breaking his glasses. Things settle down a bit during the feast, but, provoked by the altercation, Ralph is now seriously considering relinquishing his position as a leader.
Piggy, however, manages to convince him not to do such a thing, fearing for his wellbeing if under Jack’s command.
Even so, it’s evident that Ralph is not as respected as before.
Not because of this event, but because, in the meantime, most of the boys start believing that somewhere on the island, there’s a scary creature they start calling “The Beast.”
Ralph claims that there’s no such thing, but Jack promises to kill it once they discover it. And when the twins Sam and Eric mistake a dead fighter pilot for the beast, things start to get out of hand.
Jack organizes a search party which Ralph – and another boy, Roger – join. The three reach the other side of the island – called Castle Rock – and they find the dead parachutist, somewhat enlivened by the wind.
Too afraid to endure the sight, they run away almost immediately, thinking they’ve seen the beast themselves.
Jack uses the situation to call an assembly and ask for support from the other kids. He gets none, but that doesn’t change his mind: he leaves the group all by himself.
Soon, Roger joins in, and, after a while, most of the older boys (called “biguns”) do too.
And, as you would expect, under Jack’s control, things get wild.
The boys start painting themselves and enacting strange rituals, including sacrificing pigs to the beast.
Enter Peterkin – oops, Simon – a “skinny, vivid boy” who may or may not have epilepsy. Dehydrated, he retreats to his “alone place” and starts getting hallucinations while looking at the pig’s head sacrificed to the Beast.
And – lo and behold! – the head starts saying some things to him:
“Fancy thinking the beast was something you could hunt or kill! … You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close. I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are what they are?”
That’s right – Simon realizes something no one else (but, possibly, Piggy) has: that there’s no beast – but themselves.
Philip Zimbardo wrote a book about it and called it, appropriately, “The Lucifer Effect.”
Which is basically a translation of “Lord of the Flies.”
By the way, Golding wrote the book a decade and a half before that experiment.
They don’t call great writers prophetic for nothing, do they?
Lord of the Flies Epilogue
But, we didn’t tell you the ending, did we?
Now, Simon, equipped with his new finding, runs straight to the group to tell them that there’s no beast. But the group is in a ritualistic frenzy and mistakes Simon for the beast.
Joined by Ralph and Piggy in the meantime, Jack’s crew beats Simon to death, and remains robbed of the revelation which may be able to save them.
Naturally, Piggy and – especially – Ralph can’t bear the burden of this deed. So, they retreat again, joined by the twins Sam and Eric.
But, not for long!
Jack decides that they need Piggy’s glasses, so they raid Ralph’s camp and steal them. The four boys (Ralph, Piggy, Sam, Eric) go to Jack’s camp (located in the vicinity of Castle Rock) to take the glasses back.
However, while Jack and Ralph are fighting, Roger kills Piggy and entraps Sam and Eric who are afterward sadistically tortured until they agree to join Jack’s group.
Ralph is the only one left.
So, Jack and his tribe begin the hunt, setting a fire in the woods.
And as the hunters close in on Ralph – quite suddenly (literary theorists call it “deus ex machina”), a uniformed adult – a naval officer – appears on the shore.
Being British, he knows best, and he doesn’t even allow Ralph to explain himself. To him, there’s just some fire and a bunch of little boys, “their bodies streaked with colored clay, sharp sticks in their hands.”
As Ralph, struggling for breath, attempts to make some things clear, the officer interrupts him:
“I know. Jolly good show. Like the Coral Island.”
That’s a big “no,” sir.
The very, very opposite.
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“Lord of the Flies PDF Quotes”Maybe there is a beast… maybe it's only us. Click To Tweet Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy. Click To Tweet The thing is - fear can't hurt you any more than a dream. Click To Tweet We did everything adults would do. What went wrong? Click To Tweet We've got to have rules and obey them. After all, we're not savages. We're English, and the English are best at everything. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
Not long after its publication, “Lord of the Flies” was described by literary critics as “a truly terrifying picture of the decay of a minuscule society… Well on its way to becoming a modern classic.”
Unsurprisingly, the predictions came true very soon.
“Lord of the Flies” was voted the 41st best book in history according to the editors of “Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels” and 25th according to the readers. It was included in BBC’s “Big Read” and “Time” magazine’s 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005.
And if you haven’t read it, you’re missing out a lot!