Tag Archives: deserted island in the Pacific

Lord of the Flies

And now, a kind of new feature for Shards of Delirium, always assuming that the group lasts, which I do not. A batch of local friends have put together the idea of a reading discussion group. My personal estimations, for which I have absolutely no proof, are that about half the people are genuinely interested in the idea and about half want not to be left out of stuff. Also, we’re having a bit of a problem settling due dates and the like. I was thinking monthly or so, but it’s been at least a month since Lord of the Flies was suggested, and I only know of two people who have read it. (This includes me, and I only finished this weekend, after caving in and buying a new copy. So I’m not exactly shining, here.)

The last time I read this I was 14 or so. The movie came out right around then, too, and I wrote a perhaps overly glowing review of it in the school newspaper. (I suppose I could go in search of archives, but I don’t see that happening.) If I had a very clear idea of how I felt about it then, I could compare that with this time. But the stuff I can remember I still agree with now, so that would be useless. Also, it’s been out long enough and assigned to students long enough that I’m not going to worry about spoilers, so read further at your own peril.

A great lot of British schoolboys crash-land onto a small, deserted island in the Pacific, while rumbles of World War III inhabit the background. At first, they can all agree on the important things: what to do to get rescued, what to do about food, what child to label the outsider so that everyone else may safely belong. But the struggle for power between Jack (who in his former life had been the head of a boy’s choir, and was thus used to “command”) and Ralph (who was the original catalyst to bring all the lost boys together into one tribe) proves to be too much for one idyllic paradise to contain. A mounting death toll, at first the results of accidental fires and the hunting of the indigenous wildlife, grows quickly more horrific, as though they were following along with the district attorney’s criminal death checklist; by the end, every boy on the island is working toward the premeditated murder of Ralph, whose only crime is his struggle (as difficult to achieve in his own head as it is on the island) to maintain civilization.

So, yeah, we’ve got metaphor galore. Mankind’s impossible struggle against its animal past, for one thing. Coming from a Christian standpoint, the conclusion seems especially bleak, a declaration that God’s creation is essentially flawed, at its very pinnacle. And Golding had to have some amount of that idea in mind, considering the name of the book is a name for Satan, and was literally the voice of the theme, spoken through the mouth of the trophy pig’s head, left on a stake in the forest to sate (wait for it) the Beast, and turn aside his wrath. The fact that there is no beast (aside from themselves), well, there are ways and there are ways to plug that into Revelations. And coming from an evolutionary standpoint, the idea is initially untenable. After all, natural selection has brought us to civilization, so how could it so easily turn us aside from that path? Only, one of the children maintained his grasp on and desire for civilization at all times. The sad, nameless fat boy who was only provided with the foreshadowing thematic title Piggy, stayed the course right until the climactic moment of the story, when the hatred for everything he struggled to represent turned the lost boys from terrified killers to angry murderers. Looked at from that perspective, I feel like if the voice of civilization had been attached to a stronger personality, the boys would have been able to follow it. Which means, from the evolutionary perspective, that we must hold the people who brought us here in awe, and from both perspectives, we must always remember that we have to fight at some fundamental, internal (and sometimes external, unfortunately) level to keep what we have.

Anyway: pretty good book, yeah?