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Review: Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies by William Goldman

Lord of the Flies
William Golding
Penguin Books
Published December 16, 2003 (Originally Published 1954)

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About Lord of the Flies

At the dawn of the next world war, a plane crashes on an uncharted island, stranding a group of schoolboys. At first, with no adult supervision, their freedom is something to celebrate; this far from civilization the boys can do anything they want. Anything. They attempt to forge their own society, failing, however, in the face of terror, sin and evil. And as order collapses, as strange howls echo in the night, as terror begins its reign, the hope of adventure seems as far from reality as the hope of being rescued.

Labeled a parable, an allegory, a myth, a morality tale, a parody, a political treatise, even a vision of the apocalypse, LORD OF THE FLIES is perhaps our most memorable novel about “the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart.”

My Review

LORD OF THE FLIES is one of those iconic books that gets referenced all the time in our culture, but I’d never read it before. My daughter had to read it for school last year, and she had some anxiety about the content. I decided to read it first so she’d be ready for anything that might be difficult for her.

I read the book last fall as things were heating up before the presidential election here in the US. At that time, I actually wrote an initial review. But because I kept pushing back the date for posting the review, I have updated the review and added some more stuff that I’ve thought about on reflection.

Before I started reading LORD OF THE FLIES, I felt really weird reading all these big name authors talking about how pivotal this book has been for their writing. I think it’s Suzanne Collins who says that she reads LORD OF THE FLIES every year. That seemed really weird to me for a book with such a dark reputation. Every year? I mean, no offense meant. When a book resonates with you like that, I get wanting to read it every year. For a long time I had a book that I read every year, too. I guess I just found myself surprised about people feeling that way about a book that’s often referenced to describe uncontrolled violence or mayhem.

Anyway. So I went into the book with both some dread (expecting violence, which can be hard for me to read), and some, I don’t know, fascination, I guess?

The thing that still stands out to me most about the book is how easily some boys began to think of others as not human, as animals to be hunted. There’s a moment, after one boy has been killed where two boys talk around what happened. One boy comes right out and says that it was murder. The other boy recoils and tries to defend what happened as something else. He tries to explain it away as something not evil and wrong. It doesn’t work, and for a moment they’re both confronted with the horrible truth.

Watching the vigilantism and the violent language increasingly used by elected officials and repeated online while reading LORD OF THE FLIES was really creepy, y’all. Like, it seriously marked me. I would read a scene and feel like, this is awfully close to the way people are talking to each other or about each other right now. Or I’d get to a scene and think, well, surely our leaders won’t sink this low. And then. Stuff happened.

I couldn’t stop– and still can’t stop– thinking about the way the story explores the power of fear. The collapse of reason that happens when people are afraid and respond with that fear and anger. The steady shift toward things that once seemed unimaginable. I knew what was coming because I’d heard enough about the book that I basically knew what to expect. And yet, the violence of it and the dehumanization of it still shocked and shook me.

Reading this book, I can see not only from the story why it endures, but also from the writing. Like, I felt genuinely pulled into the tale. Even when I wasn’t reading, I thought about it. I wanted to know what would happen. Even though I already pretty much knew what was coming, I couldn’t look away from what was happening. It gripped me and paralyzed me with horror. (Much the way I felt weeks later watching the coverage of the January 6 insurrection.)

Honestly, I won’t say I enjoyed it– not like, celebrated reading it. But it really moved me. I think I would read it again. I think I NEED to read it again.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 16 up.

All the boys are British private school students.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content

Spiritual Content
The boys fear a mysterious evil they call the Beast. They leave food sacrifices for it, hoping that this will keep the Beast away from them.

Violent Content
At least one racist comment equating Indians with savages. Multiple violent descriptions of hunting and killing pigs. Boys beat another boy to death. A boy falls to his death after being hit with a rock.

Drug Content

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