Suddenly, pacing by the water, he was overcome with astonishment. He found himself understanding the wearisomeness of this life, where every path was an improvisation and a considerable part of one’s waking life was spent watching one’s feet. He stopped, facing the strip, and remembering that first enthusiastic exploration as though it were part of a brighter childhood, he smiled jeeringly.
(from Lord of the Flies, page 76)
William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, published in 1954, is another book added to my “better late than never” list. The Girl (age 12) read this book in her reading class just before school ended and loved it, so she insisted I needed to read it, too. (She was thoughtful to gush about it with no spoilers, but that meant she was saying “Hurry up and finish it already” to me about every five minutes! I wish I could’ve included more of her thoughts in this review, but with rugby, summer camp, and summer reading, she’s been extremely busy. She did tell me that she’d rate it a 4.5/5 though.)
The novel is about a group of British schoolboys stranded on an uninhabited island after their plane is shot down during a war. The plane crash and the immediate aftermath are not described; the book opens with two of the boys, Ralph and Piggy, discovering a lagoon, fishing a conch shell out of the water, and using it to call a gathering of the other survivors.
Once joined by the charismatic Jack and his fellow choirboys/followers, Ralph is elected chief and attempts to create some sort of order to ensure their survival and rescue. Ralph and Jack butt heads about what needs to be done; Ralph thinks a fire and smoke signal are most important so they can be rescued, while Jack is focused on hunting wild pigs for meat.
Without adults, the boys adopt a carefree attitude, swimming, playing, eating fruit, and much to Ralph’s dismay, ignoring the fire and refusing to help build shelters. It’s not long before fear of an unseen “beast” and a thirst for power threaten the order Ralph has tried so hard to maintain.
Lord of the Flies is well written, although I admit I was bored by the endless descriptions of the island’s topography and quite glad each time the narrative shifted back to the interactions between the boys. While several of the boys are named (and many more are not), the novel focuses mainly on Ralph, the voice of reason; Piggy, a symbol of wisdom and humanity, despite his outcast status and weaknesses; Jack, strong and charismatic but also the most primal; and Simon, the protector of the youngest boys on the island. Golding did a great job making the characters interesting and unique and showing how the different, strong personalities clashed.
From what I’d heard about this book over the years, I expected it to be dark, but I had no idea how sinister and even shocking it would be! I also didn’t expect it to be so thought-provoking, so full of symbolism, and so eerily believable. I especially love how a book this deep is geared toward young adults; The Girl enjoyed telling me what they’d talked about in class, and I can’t remember her ever dissecting a book so thoroughly before.
Lord of the Flies is not for the faint of heart. There are gruesome, brutal scenes that cause you to think long and hard about human nature. It’s a novel about the loss of innocence and humanity, how easy it could be for people to revert to a wild, savage state without an authority figure and the confines of society. Golding also shows how power can be misused and how order can easily turn into chaos. It’s not the kind of adventure novel I was expecting, and I wasn’t completely satisfied with the ending, but it’s a novel that will haunt me for a very long time.
Disclosure: I borrowed Lord of the Flies is from my daughter.
© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.