Book Review #3 — Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Got it done in under a month guys! Success! Image

Actually it only took me two days to “read” this (we’ll get to the quotation marks later). Recently I’ve become sort of obsessed with Gone With the Wind, so I devoted a lot of the past month to reading about the story, reading the story, watching the movie etc. I have a very obsessive nerdy personality where once I get into something I need to know everything about it. However, this past weekend I visited my friend at Penn State (aha, a clue! as to where I go to school that is…meaning not Penn State) and on the drive there…I sort of cheated. Meaning I listened to the book on tape, read aloud by the author. I did go back and read over key passages, but I still feel like I cheated a little when it comes to this book. Nonetheless, I did read or have read to me every word in the book and therefore have ingested its contents.

 

Rating: 

Five stars! Two thumbs up! Guys, this book is really good!

I have often scoffed at the labeling of certain works of literature and poetry as ‘classics.’ I usually find this to be very subjective and meaningless, such as with The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. Terrible novel. However, Lord of the Flies has often been touted to me as one of the great pieces of literature of the 20th century. It was on many recommended reading lists during high school, but I always passed over it. Boys stranded on an island? The idea was mesmerizing to me, but I didn’t want to read someone else write about it.

Boy, I was wrong. Something extra that I got out of listening to the book on tape was the introduction and comments at the end by William Golding. In the introduction, he explained why he wrote about a group of boys only and why he didn’t write about girls only, or boys and girls, or with any grownups. He believed that for some reason young boys stranded together would represent a microcosm of society. I bring this up, because I heard it before the story. Now, after listening to and reading the story, it’s a fascinating concept to reflect upon. 

The boys are all well fleshed out characters, but somehow at the same type they represents archetypes of man. The littluns represent the masses, who rally together during assemblies but are difficult to control otherwise. They never seem to completely grasp the concept that the fire is the only way that they are going to be rescued, just like people tend to get all up in arms about certain conflicts in the heat of the moment, then forget about them and do nothing afterwards. Everyone does it, myself included.

Ralph’s position, for me, is the most understandable. He was the natural born leader, the charismatic boy. Ralph was well-meaning most of the time, trying to get everyone rescued and keep the island in order, but he often slipped up. He was too concerned with popularity. His other main flaw was simply his youth. He did not yet understand the machinations of man, did not yet have the cynicism that the rest of us possess to understand why people would not do what he wanted.

Jack and Roger represent the core values of humans. We are ruthless and violent and power hungry. They are given the opportunity to strip away the rules of society, and do so willingly to become savage, violent beings. People always complain about how violent television and video games are now, which I always find hilarious. People find entertainment in violence, they always have. Just look to the Roman gladiators, fascination with serial killers, and public hangings that people went to for entertainment. Violence is a part of being a human. Our faculties are such that we can process and understand violence so as to choose not to participate in it, but it is a part of us nonetheless.

Sorry, mini-rant there. This book is great, it opens up so many discussions!

The last character I want to talk about is Piggy. What would a discussion of Lord of the Flies be without an analysis of Piggy? As I began the novel, I realized that I had heard about Piggy before, in my mass pop culture internet experience. I knew he would fall and die. I like Piggy as a character, because he always made me think about politics. Well intentioned charismatic people like Ralph become leaders, but need smarter people like Piggy to help them figure out what they want to say and do. If Piggy had been more charismatic, he could have led the boys to a harmonious rule, possibly. 

I assume that this book has been challenged many times by over protective parents of students. It is incredibly violent (but as I stated earlier, this is part of the human condition people, can’t protect your little angels from it forever). There are many horrific images contained within the book: the decapitated pigs head on a pike, the brutal murder of Simon (makes me sad thinking about it, I loved Simon), Roger stabbing the pig up the anus, and my favorite “a stick sharpened at both ends.” That line is possibly my favorite from the book, because it is so chilling. Ralph never reveals if he truly knows what this means, but he dwells on it. We the readers know what it means, but don’t really want Ralph to say or think what it really is. I won’t write it here, because it’s such a powerful narrative tool to not reveal the entirety of the meaning.

Lord of the Flies is a terrific book that I am sorry to not have read before. It encapsulates the line “that escalated quickly” perfectly. It is an extremely frustrating, humbling, terrifying read that I did not want to end (except that I did want Ralph to be safe). William Golding ended his narration by talking about the two ideas he had in his head before he started writing the novel. The first was a boy who was so pleased to find himself stranded on an actual desert island with no grownups he stood on his head. The second was when the boy realized what people truly are like at the end of this journey and was devastated. In its core, Lord of the Flies is a story about the loss of innocence. These boys, even the six year olds, are hardened by their experience at the end of the novel. They have seen the core of man and can never go back to their fanciful days of play before. At least not without a grain of salt.

Favorite Scene: This one was tough. I think my favorite scene was one of the major turning points. It was when Ralph, Piggy, Simon and a few others see a ship and run up to the fire, only to find it’s gone out. Jack took away the boys who were supposed to keep the fire going, and took everyone else to kill a pig, finally. This is the scene where it really broke for me. Ralph finally realized that Jack wasn’t on his side and that Piggy was. Jack’s savagery and obsession with meat and killing drove him outside of proper sense to let the fire go out. During this scene, I kept shouting, “Who cares about meat! You don’t need it, you have food already! How is meat more important than being rescued!” Needless to say, any book that gets me this emotional is pretty powerful.

Book #4: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

As I have stated previously, I am a huge Jane Austen fan. This is the only novel of hers that I have not read, so obviously I had to put it on the list. I am also going to London soon (for all you stalkers), so I wanted to pick a very British novel. This is going to be my last book for the year (meaning until my birthday in November). After this, my book reading is going to be less frenetic, because I am giving myself a year to read four books. 

I know quite a bit about this book. The main character is Fanny Price, something about falling in love with her cousin Edmund. There’s some mean girl who’s name I know but not off the top of my head. Fanny is a semi-controversial heroine in the Jane Austen world, I don’t know completely why but I think she’s not as strong minded as the others and is a bit of an idiot. So I’ve stayed away so far, but not any longer. To Mansfield Park I go!

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