Lord of the FliesPosted: October 26, 2012
Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, is a disturbing and somewhat horrifying look at humanity.
You’ve probably heard the summaries. Boys are in a plane when it crashes and end up alone on a desert island (by which I’m referring to the dictionary.com definition of “a small remote tropical island,” not a literal island that is a desert; I am also making a subtle pun on “deserted island”), and start to lose every ounce of civility they might once have owned.
Lord of the Flies is a startling, terrifying book. What happens when there are no rules? At the beginning, despite the fact that they are alone, the island is a sort of paradise. There are no adults to boss the boys around. They can do whatever they want. They can sleep whenever they want, say whatever they want, go wherever they want. They think they’re mature…capable. They think they can be in charge of themselves.
They are wrong.
The writing of Lord of the Flies is incredible. “Along the shoreward edge of the shallows the advancing clearness was full of strange, moonbeam-bodied creatures with fiery eyes. Here and there a larger pebble clung to its own air and was covered with a coat of pearls. The tide swelled in over the rain-pitted sand and smoothed everything with a layer of silver. Now it touched the first of the stains that seeped from the broken body and the creatures made a moving patch of light as they gathered at the edge. The water rose further and dressed ’s coarse hair with brightness. The line of his cheek silvered and the turn of his shoulder became sculptured marble. The strange, attendant creatures, with their fiery eyes and trailing vapours busied themselves round his head. The body lifted a fraction of an inch from the sand and a bubble of air escaped from the mouth with a wet plop. Then it turned gently in the water.
“Somewhere over the darkened curve of the world the sun and moon were pulling; and the film of water on the earth planet was held, bulging slightly on one side while the solid core turned. The great wave of the tide moved further along the island and the water lifted. Softly, surrounded by a fringe of inquisitive bright creatures, itself a silver shape beneath the steadfast constellations, ’s dead body moved out towards the open sea.”
The descriptions are incredible. More than that, the boys’ words and the narrator’s (since it’s a third-person perspective, what I mean by “the narrator’s words” is William Golding’s descriptions) are very clearly different, giving the boys shape as real people distinct from the world, which can be interpreted as you wish. They talk like real people.
Each paragraph has tension, beauty, or strong emotion. My breath caught from one page to the next. 6/5.
The plot of Lord of the Flies starts out rather slowly and gradually picks up the pace until it’s racing along, one major event after another. The world of the book is brought to the brink of disaster and back again multiple times. The words are riveting and terrifying. This is a terrifying plot. It’s a startling and frightening look at each other and ourselves. It is scary, and the most chilling thought is that it could be true. 5/5
In Lord of the Flies, people develop dramatically to the point of monstrosity. There is the question, is this too much development?, but that’s a dissection question, for classroom analysis. Meanwhile your eye moves fluidly across the page and follows the boys downwards and inwards. Some of the boys blend into each other, because there are a few distinct main characters and the rest don’t really matter, but it’s okay because the few that are important are very clear, and they are each very different. I honestly could not give this book a low score for character depth or development even if I felt that the other boys should have had more depth. This is a psychological novel, a look at human nature; how could the characters not have depth? I think it’s just that the depth that they have can be so disturbing we don’t want it to be true. So, 5/5.
Je Ne C’est Quois
This is definitely a place you want to leave behind. When I first read this book, the only parts of it that disturbed me were the especially graphic scenes, such as a particular scene with flies and rotting flesh. These aren’t all too frequent, although there is a perpetual air of death hanging over the island near the end. However, almost as soon as I put it down, it was sending chills down my back to think about. What if? What if this is true? What if the stretch it seems to be making on reality is not so much of a stretch at all? What if we are as terrible as this book quietly claims for us to be?
I think I’ll give this book a low Je Ne C’est Quois rating, because I was not left with a “warm ache”—to the contrary, I was left with a cold ache—and the only part of this book that feels special in that sort of way is the delicacy of the prose. The book is special, make no mistake, but in a way too cold to offer itself for Je Ne C’est Quois. Nevertheless, this is a book that will stay with me, so 2/5.
Lord of the Flies leaves a lot of questions, and it leaves a lot of answers. I don’t know whether they’re true, and I certainly do not want to find out.