Lord of the Flies
William Golding, 1954
Book Review by Molly Lundquist
Since first published in 1954, Lord of the Flies has stood as a sort of Rorsach test. Some readers see it as a religious allegory between good and evil...others as a Freudian battle between id vs. superego...still others as a history of the rise of civilization. Finally, many see it as a commentary on the world's political institutions.
Any, in fact all, of those readings—and more—lend themselves to Golding's chilling tale of boys gone bad.
If you've read Lord of the Flies before, most likely it was for school. Now might be a good time to revisit the novel, this time as an adult. If you haven't read it, a quick summary follows.
War is raging throughout most of the "civilized" world when a group of upper-class boys is evacuated from Britain. Their plane is shot down over a deserted Pacific island, killing the pilot and any adults on board—and the boys are left to their own devices.
What at first is a spot of Eden—splashing and gamboling in the waves—gradually devolves into a hellish war zone. The boys split into rival factions. One group, under Ralph, wishes to govern through peace and the rule of law; the other, under Jack, sees power and force as the true basis for governing. Ralph's group follows logic and reasoning; Jack's superstition and gut instinct.
Chaos and tragedy inevitably follow.
It's not simply a matter of "boys being boys." The children are mimicking the conflagration in the larger adult world. One of the questions the novel poses is whether the boys' behavior is learned or instinctual? Are we born innocents to be corrupted...or savages to be tamed?
Lord of the Flies is a gripping, suspense-filled novel. Book clubs will have a lively conversation talking about the many interpretations the book offers. I'd like to be a fly on the wall when you discuss it.
See our Reading Guide for Lord of the Flies.
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