Continuing my sojourn through the books I studied in High School with William Golding’s “The Lord of the Flies,” which wears its themes on its sleeves, and whose lack of subtlety makes it easy to digest and commentate. Of all the books I remember reading for class, this is the one whose essay formed most easily.
You know the story: amidst an unspecified war, a plane crashes onto a deserted island, leaving a group of schoolboys to fend for themselves in wild, unknown terrain. Perfect fodder for an archetypal adventure story — which this is most certainly not. In such stories, the schoolboys’ survival is almost guaranteed. Oh, sure — they’re going to run into trouble, have a few close calls. But by the time the story ends, the kids are on a boat, drifting away from trouble, valuable life lessons learned.
Golding chucked that script in the bin.
Here, the boys form a makeshift society, which is fractious from the start, with the two biggest personalities having different perspectives on what should be prioritised, and their distance from civilisation eroding their civility and innocence, turning them into savages; mankind in its most barbaric form.
It’s easy to take for granted now, the simple ingenuity of “The Lord of the Flies.” Because the tropes it smashed are now broken on the reg. We expect this kind of thematic depth, this complexity of character. The book’s power is rooted in its plainness. Its premise is overt, penetrating and stirring. A classic for a reason, obviously.
Published: 1st March 2022