I read this in the last couple of days, and after finishing it yesterday I wanted to share a few thoughts I had on it, rather than a simple review. This does contain spoilers, although I imagine most people have a vague understanding of what it is about simply from word of mouth.
When I first started reading Lord of the Flies, I didn’t quite know what to make of it. I thought Golding did a fantastic job on the description and setting the scene – he goes into large detail about the island where the boys are stranded. But for the first third of the book, it seemed only to regard the foolish escapades and squabbles of boys left without adult supervision.
This changes later in the book. The boys start to become more primal as their attempt at society transcends into anarchy. As time goes on, the boys are grasped by violent instincts and begin to kill – first pigs, then latterly they accidently kill two boys. Perhaps because I had somewhat of a background of the book – it is such a well known novel, this is inescapable – this was why I didn’t find the actions wholeheartedly shocking.
But there is still something to be said for the way Golding constructs the murders. They are quick and the actions of boys reduced to temporary insanity. Some of the boys, still clinging onto the idea of social normalcy (Ralph, Piggy, and the twins Sam and Eric) are clearly horrified by their actions. Juxtaposing this guilt is the indifference of the alternate tribe who later become ‘savages’. In a society without rules or law, murder becomes a mere consequence instead of a startling action of brutal intent.
I found the end quite strange. I actually guessed what would happen as I was reading the final pages, but I didn’t think I would be right. After Golding had made such a fuss about fire through Ralph and Piggy, of course Ralph’s admittance that the ‘savages’ were setting the island on fire made me think of rescue. I guess the reason it was strange was that Golding had built up so much tension in those last few pages and suddenly the Naval officer bursts the bubble of tension in an unexpected way.
The actions of the boys had become so extravagant and insane by that point, perhaps the ending was Golding’s way of saying that all actions have consequence. That even amongst the furthest reaches of society, there will still be somebody passing judgement, and that morality will always return to cure insanity. After all, that is quite a British assertion when looking at the time the book was written; insanity simply won’t do.
I think the lack of female figures on the island was a major factor. Golding depicts a society with no love, affection or guidance. Is this not the traditional role of the female? Without these aspects, everything descends into chaos. Some might argue that this is more to do with lack of ‘grown up’ supervision than the lack of females, but I think there is a clear statement here about the power of the female – or at least what the female is seen to represent in society.
You could interpret it one of two ways. Either Golding is highlighting the importance of the female in our society (without women everything falls to barbarity) or the absence of the female is signifying that women have little role in society at all, and that even if the boys’ society was a failure, it could still work without the woman’s role to soften it.
I also want to talk about the power struggle. There is a very clear power struggle between the two figures of Ralph and Jack. Ralph represents the typical English society, the need for democracy and co-operation and togetherness. Jack represents the more carnal, patriarchal aspect of society, the need to bring ‘the meat’, to act instead of talk, to rule through fear rather than loyalty. By the end of the novel, he attempts to usurp Ralph’s role, and until the end of the novel it appears that this is working. The fact that the voice of sanity and reason steps in to save the day at the end, very deus ex machina, truly undermines Jack’s role in the novel.
Additionally, considering when the novel was written, in 1954, I can’t help but consider the contextual implications of this – is Golding depicting a greater power struggle than the actions of two boys? The rise of Jack as a central power in the novel seems to have parallels with Germany’s rise and role in WW2. Again, I have to think of the end, with the British Navy coming in to suddenly challenge Jack’s rising force. The ‘savages’ are reduced to boys playing games, and the presence of the adult massively weakens the power struggle which had been seen throughout the novel. The adult has usurped the power as Britain managed to usurp the power of Germany in the latter years of the war, with the help of the American forces. But this is only my interpretation.
I know this post has very little meaning other than speculation. But if a book isn’t provoking thought, then it clearly isn’t a very insightful book. I did enjoy Lord of the Flies. It wasn’t what I expected, but it did provoke a lot of thoughts, and it is something I’d like to discuss.
So tell me: have you read Lord of the Flies? If you have, what do you think? Do you agree or disagree with any of my thoughts? I’d love to hear your ideas.