Spoilers abound in this review, dear readers, so beware! If you haven’t read this one yet, stop now.
I had never read this classic before now. It was one of the options in Advanced Literature, my freshman year of high school, along with Wuthering Heights and Dune. I ended up choosing Wuthering Heights, which, is an excellent read if you’re into the gothic romance stuff. So, I was bringing adult eyes to a book that most people seem to have read as a young adult. And, I have to say, I was enthralled.
As I mentioned in previous reviews, my undergraduate degree is in political science. For whatever reason, I love studying the building blocks of society, the structures of power, and the shifting sands of public opinion and group think. Lord of the Flies is a powerhouse of a book for all of those things.
For those like me who haven’t read this (I imagine there must be somebody out there), we start out on an island. There has been a plane crash and only children have survived. We’re on an island full of boys- no girls, interestingly enough. I guess Golding didn’t want to muddy the waters with gender issues in addition to the social hierarchy stuff. So, there’s a charismatic boy named Ralph who meets an overweight kid. Overweight kid shares with Ralph in confidence that the boys back at school used to call him, ‘Piggy’, but he’d rather be called anything but that. They find a huge conch shell on the beach and use it to call the other survivors to the shoreline. They’re sharing names and Ralph tells the group to call the fat kid, Piggy. Now, that was a huge red flag to me. When you tell somebody a secret and, not ten minutes later, they turn around and use that secret against you, you’ve got to know that you’ve got problems heading your way.
Well, the newly christened Piggy doesn’t have a lot of choice in the matter, because there’s an older group of choir boys on the island and the head of that group doesn’t like Piggy. So, to protect himself from the provocations of the bigger and stronger boy, Piggy allies himself with Ralph. The entire group takes a vote and decides that Ralph is going to lead this rag-tag bunch. Ralph wants to keep a smokey fire burning at all times, in order to attract the attention of any passing ships, and get the heck off of the island. Choir boy leader, Jack, wants to hunt the wild pigs on the island for meat. He becomes strangely obsessed with this chore and begins to go a bit bonkers- sort like Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. Remember, there are no adults around to keep the peace. And then things start to fall completely apart…
That’s the basic plot. Now for some quotes: “This is our island. It’s a good island. Until the grownups come to fetch us we’ll have fun. pg 54 ebook. Famous last words, right?
Superstition and fear enter the picture in some of the first moments on the beach: “He wants to know what you’re going to do about the snake-thing.”… Either the wandering breezes or perhaps the decline of the sun allowed a little coolness to lie under the trees. The boys felt it and stirred restlessly. pg 55 ebook. Golding could have taken this story a completely different direction and made the beast real. It would have been so cool in a science fiction type of way. Oh well.
My favorite character was, of course, Piggy: “Ralph moved impatiently. The trouble was, if you were a chief you had to think, you had to be wise. And then the occasion slipped by so that you had to grab at a decision… Only, decided Ralph as he faced the chief’s seat, I can’t think. Not like Piggy. … Piggy could think. He could go step by step inside that fat head of his, only Piggy was no chief. But Piggy, for all his ludicrous body, had brains. Ralph was a specialist in thought now, and could recognize thought in another.” pg 125, ebook. You think Roger ever got any psychological treatment for being such a psycho and killing people? One can only hope.
One of the original young adult dystopian reads, Lord of the Flies is an excellent pick for reluctant readers. Don’t let the label of “classic” fool you. It has a very fast pace and I’m still picking apart the details in my head even though I finished it a couple days ago. Some read alikes: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (of course) and The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey (fresh take on a dystopian world, accepted social order, and power struggles between characters).
Thanks for reading!