Book Review: Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the FliesLord of the Flies by William Golding
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘Lord of the Flies’ is another of those classics I always intended to read but never had the chance to until now. I’m not sure the novel deserves its cult status but I am certainly glad it’s another one on my literary bucket list which is ticked off.

The novel is quite short and very easy to read. The themes explored are fascinating and remarkably deep making this understandably a book much loved by high school teachers for use with students. It captures the imagination, keeps the action pace moving and yet manages a deep pathos which is appreciable to young minds. For many, this may be the first book which introduces them to darker aspects of the adult world.

As a huge fan of the TV series ‘Lost’ I can’t help but make the obvious connections with the book which must have been an influence to the writers: Two characters are pitted antagonistically against each other, the survivors ultimately having to choose between them. Characters find themselves descending into acts of barbarity. There is a ‘beast’ in both. One of the main characters is called Jack (though Jack in the TV series has more of the characteristics of Ralph in the book). One of the characters identifies as a hunter and kills boars. When separate groups are founded one is referred to as ‘Others’. There is even a parachutist in both! I could go on, but you get the picture.

I recommend to anyone who loves either Lost or Golding’s novel to indulge in the other as they are, in many ways, soul brothers in theme. At the very least, it is interesting and perhaps even illuminating to know both.

So why the uncertainty of the acclaim ‘Lord of the Flies’ enjoys? I think perhaps the speed and depth of depravity to which the boys descend isn’t really believable. There’s a feel to the book, perhaps because of how short it is, which makes it feel as though the boys have been on the island only days. The ending suggests a loss of humanity which would occur over months or years.

I also struggle with the attempt to make the ‘Lord of the Flies’ itself so central. Sure, it makes a cracking good title but the importance of the thing itself is lost by the concentration on the ‘beast’. The book needs one or the other I feel. That said, there’s little doubting the horror inherent and the almost rhythmic reciting of the ‘stick sharpened at both ends’ at the end is a brilliant device enabling the reader to visualise a horror which could not at the time (and perhaps still not) be turned into action by the boys. Thankfully so, or this book would never have made it on to the library shelves of schools, and that would have been a shame.

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