The classic novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding is an exciting adventure deep into the nether regions of the mind. The part of the brain that is suppressed by the mundane tasks of modern society. It is a struggle between Ralph and Jack, the boys and the Beast, good and evil.
The story takes a look at what would happen if a group of British school boys were to become stranded on an island. At first the boys have good intentions, keep a fire going so that a passing ship can see the smoke and rescue them, however because of the inherent evil of the many the good intentions of the few are quickly passed over for more exciting things. The killing of a pig slowly begins to take over the boys life, and they begin to go about this in a ritualistic way, dancing around the dead animal and chanting. As this thirst for blood begins to spread the group is split into the “rational (the fire-watchers) pitted against the irrational (the hunters) (Dick 121).” The fear of a mythological “beast” is perpetuated by the younger members of the groups and they are forced to do something about it. During one of the hunters’ celebrations around the kill of an animal a fire-watcher stumbles in to try and disband the idea of the monster. Caught of in the rabid frenzy of the dance, this fire-watcher suddenly becomes the monster and is brutally slaughtered by the other members of the group. The climax of the novel is when the hunters are confronted by the fire-watchers. The hunters had stole Piggy’s (one of the fire-watchers) glasses so that they may have a means of making a cooking fire. One of the more vicious hunters roles a boulder off of a cliff, crushing Piggy, and causing the death of yet another rational being. The story concludes with the hunters hunting Ralph (the head and last of the fire-watchers). After lighting half of the island on fire in an attempt to smoke Ralph from his hiding place, they chase him on to the beach only to find a ships captain and crew waiting there to rescue them, because he saw the smoke.
The novel is packed full of symbolism and irony. Golding also communicates his message quite well. “The title refers to Beelzebub, most stinking and depraved of all the devils: it is he, and not the God of Christians, who is worshipped (Burgess 121).” This is just one of the many examples of Lord of the Flies symbolism. Another would be that as the story progressed characters names slowly begin to change. A pair of twin boys, Sam and Eric, became know as Samneric, a single unit. Another boy completely forgot his name because he was just lumped into the group know as the little’uns. This is symbolic of the break down of the basic structure of society, identity. If a person does not know who he is then he can never function properly in society. The other tool that Golding uses very well is irony. It is very ironic that the group of boys finally get rescued because they accidentally lit the island on fire hunting down the last of the fire-watchers. From these example it is easy to make a conclusion on the message the William Golding was trying to convey when he wrote Lord of the Flies. “In Lord of the Flies he Golding showed how people go to hell when the usual social controls are lifted, on desert islands real or imaginary (Sheed 121).”
Despite being heavily involved in the war efforts during the second world war, Golding managed to not become a war novelist, this does however, somewhat explain why most of the conflicts in his books are basic struggles between people. “He Golding entered the Royal Navy at the age of twenty-nine in December 1940, and after a period of service on mine sweepers, destroyers, and cruisers, he became a lieutenant in command of his own rocketship (Baker xiii).” So many of the authors of his time used the war as the back ground or main conflict in their books, but not Golding, he is able to use the war as his inspiration and write about the most primitive and basic struggles that man has. One must not think that Golding did not go unchanged from the war, because analysis of his pre-war poetry shows a much softer, more forgiving Golding.
Golding’s basic philosophy can be summed up in a few words – society is evil. All of his books deal with this idea in some way or another. It is very easy to see how this idea is presented in Lord of the Flies where “the good intentions of the few are overborne by the innate evil of the many (Burgess 121).” According to one of many critics “what Golding senses is that institutions and order imposed from with out are temporary, but that man’s irrationality and urge for destruction are enduring (Karl 119).” According to Golding the aim of his works is “to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature (Baker 5).”
Golding’s works have a way about them that is distinctively his. All of his works are in some way copied from other works, but he adapts them to fit his own needs. In his own use of the word, Lord of the Flies and The Inheritors are “parodies” of Ballantyne and Wells. “Golding’s hallmark: a polarity expressed in terms of a moral tension (Dick 121).” This is usually the key thing that makes a Golding novel a Golding novel.
Lord of the Flies, one of William Golding’s many novels, is a well written, well thought out writing that depicts the evils of human nature. William Golding the man himself is qualified enough to write about such topics because he was involved heavily in W.W.II. This caused Golding’s views on life to change to his current philosophy “The shape of society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system however apparently logical or respectable (Baker 5).” The frame work of a Golding novel is simple and most often copied from an outside source, then reshape to fit his purpose. Finally I think Wilfrid Sheed said it best when he said “Golding’s writing is not ideally suited to a social novel – it is angular and ugly and the dialogue occasionally sounds immature.” As a matter of opinion though I would recommend Lord of the Flies to anyone.
Allen, Walter. “The Modern Novel,” Contemporary Literary Criticism Detroit: Gale Research, 1973: 120-121
Baker, James R. William Golding New York St.Martin’s Press, 1965.
Burgess, Anthony. “The Novel Now: A guide to contemporary Fiction” Contemporary Literary Criticism Detroit: Gale Research, 1973: 120-121
Dick, Bernard F. “William Golding” Contemporary Literary Criticism Detroit: Gale Research, 1973: 121-121
Gordan, David J. “Saturday Review” Contemporary Literary Criticism Detroit: Gale Research, 1973: 122-122
Karl, Krederic R. “The Metaphysical Novels of William Golding” Contemporary Literary Criticism Detroit: Gale Research, 1973: 119-120
Sheed, Wilfrid “William Golding: The Pyramid” Contemporary Literary Criticism Detroit: Gale Research, 1973: 121-121