I’ve read Lord of the Flies three times, once in high school, once about ten years ago and again last month because I decided to tag along with my mother to her book club. If you came here through a Google search looking for something to help you with a high school paper, I’ll try to update this soon with something useful.
This book was difficult for me to appreciate as a teen, probably because I was a real dick back then. I hated being forced to read it, I hated the analysis of it and the nonsense of Simon as a Christ figure (I went to a Catholic school, obviously) and I hated the characters. I was glad when Piggy died, he was annoying.
I stopped going to book clubs a couple years ago after reading Jodi Piccoult’s My Sister’s Keeper back to back with Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. But it was fun to go out to a book club again (it was through the library, so there was no booze), there were eight women in the group (including my mother and the librarian ) and the group was divided down the middle into those who loved it and those that didn’t care for it. Being the only male in the group (commenting on a book that featured no women), it was interesting to hear the different opinions.
I think this book is hard to appreciate without having some empathy, something I lacked at 16. It’s not that I wasn’t smart enough to understand it, but I just didn’t care about anything. Reading it again as an adult, a parent and a more sophisticated reader, I was able to see the novel for the masterpiece many claim it to be. The book is beautifully written (look at the first page describing the scar on the island left by the plane crash), disturbing (the death of Simon and Piggy) and incredibly well paced. I think Golding captured the behavior of pre-teen boys brilliantly and the times the characters didn’t act their age, it was forgivable (like when the boys are scared and gathered around the campfire discussing the ‘beast’ and 10 year old Simon astutely says, “Maybe there is a beast….maybe it’s only us.”) In the end, of course, that is the chilling part of the book, the monstrous ways the boys treat each other.
I loved the ending as well, I found it incredibly profound and something we never talked about in High School. At the end of the book, Ralph is running for his life, being chased by Jack and his group of hunters. Ralph falls and just as the rest of the boys are upon him, a naval officer shows up and is embarrassed by the boy’s behavior, claiming it to be un-British. But the naval officer comes from a war ship at sea during World War II and while he stops the boys from playing war, the larger question is implicitly asked: who will stop man from the wars he wages against himself?
Some interesting points from the book club:
- I always wondered what kind of school trip would send a group of boys alone to the South Pacific, but a woman in the group pointed out that during the bombing in Britain, wealthy people were likely shipping their children away to safety rather than sending them on a fancy school trip.
- We talked a lot about what we remembered about high school English class, one woman said that she remembered analogies made to different types of government, with Ralph, Piggy and the Conch represent democracy, Jack and his hunters a totalitarian state and in the end anarchy reigns over the island.
- This book is so ubiquitous that any island type story owes some debt to LOTF, like LOST, Survivor and The Beach.
This is such a great book, if you haven’t read it since high school, I would recommend that you pick it up again.