Home > Literature, Reviews > Review of Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Review of Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the FliesThis is a book I probably should have read long ago. However, the good thing about reading books later in life that one should have read earlier in life (or so I rationalise) is that it gives you a greater appreciation of them. And I certainly appreciated Lord of the Flies.

The opening (the whole novel, in fact, but especially the opening) reminded me a lot of Lost (although that should have been the other way round, of course). A group of boys find themselves on a tropical island in the aftermath of a plane crash. The flight had been evacuating them from an innominate Third World War (a fact that isn’t especially important to the story, but hovers in the background like stormclouds on the horizon). Their painfully naïve assumption is that they will be rescued soon and that life on the island will be jolly good fun.

Of course, neither is true. The boys organise themselves admirably at first, but they can’t follow through on their early determination. In the end, instead of having to struggle against nature, the elements, the island, the worst threats they face are themselves – both the other boys and their own fears and failings. The boys’ descent into barbarism, superstition and murder follows a natural downward curve and seems all too believable a prediction. One of the most chilling things about this is that, like Ender’s Game, all the adult brutality is committed by children.

I particularly enjoyed the language of the novel – it was at once poetic and stark: a perfect accompaniment to the story. What wasn’t quite so good was the dialogue: Golding obviously tried hard to go for naturalistic conversations, full of cross purposes, non sequiturs, ellipses and slang (which latter is, of course, fifty years out of date, now). As a result it’s a little difficult to understand what the boys are talking about – but maybe that’s appropriate.

The climax of the novel is fairly painful reading – from the death of ‘Fatty’ (whose first action was to request that he not be called Fatty, and yet never tells anyone his real name), through the hunting down of the occasionally heroic Jack, to the burning of the forest and the flight from fire and savage boys. And yet, just when you think the conclusion of the book must be nothing short of a miniature holocaust, the boys are rescued by a Royal Navy cutter. The story slices into itself with a knife of bathos as Jack explains to the officer that there have been a couple of murders, and the officer complains that he would have expected better of British boys.

In short, Lord of the Flies is essential reading.

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