The Lord Of The Flies. Did you know that is a literal translation of Beelzebub? No, neither did I.
Oh this is a horrible book, but I love it! Actually, the book isn’t horrible, the characters are. What would happen in a society without adults? As a kid, I used to dream of a world without authority, as I’m sure all kids do. Turns out, that world is vile, sick and disturbing.
So what happens? Basically, a plane crashes on a non-specific island in the Pacific leaving only preadolescent boys as survivors. Three of these boys become the main characters in the book, Ralph – a level-headed leader, Piggy – an overweight bespectacled outsider and Jack – basically a bully. Whereas Ralph is representative of order and civilisation, Piggy, as the most intellectual of the boys represents adult reason. Jack represents all that is animalistic in human nature.
During their time on the island all the boys come to fear the ‘beast’ – a figment of their imagination brought on by their isolation. In order to appease this beast, the boys make an offering of the ‘Lord Of The Flies’ – a decapitated pigs head, maniacally grinning as it rots on a pole.
When Simon (representative of innocence) tries to reason with the others about the existence of the beast, they turn on him, believing him to be the beast and savagely tear him apart. After this, there is no going back, as brutality and depravity reign. Can Ralph and Piggy restore order to their bloodthirsty comrades? Not very likely!
Focusing as it does on young boys, this wasn’t a book that really appealed to me and I put off reading it for ages, only giving in as it’s on the BBC’s Book Challenge List. How glad am I that I gave in?! It’s excellent. Disturbing and sadistic, but what a book! This is the sort of book that once read will never be forgotten. It’s style is easy to read and as such it’s regularly on the English Literature’s GCSE syllabus across the UK. The themes discussed are as relevant across society today as when the book was written in 1954. It’s a story that’s keeps being reinvented and appealing to new audiences, with successes such as Battle Royale and The Hunger Games. Beyond all the brutality and vileness, The Lord Of The Flies is an adventure story with the boys battling for survival and, ultimately rescue. What they lose in the process is their humanity, reason and innocence.
“The pile of guts was a black blob of flies that buzzed like a saw. After a while these flies found Simon. Gorged, they alighted by his runnels of sweat and drank. They tickled under his nostrils and played leapfrog on his thighs. They were black and iridescent green and without number; and in front of Simon, the Lord of the Flies hung on his stick and grinned. At last Simon gave up and looked back; saw the white teeth and dim eyes, the blood—and his gaze was held by that ancient, inescapable recognition.”
If you like reading about the savageness of youth you might like The Wasp Factory
If you like the struggle for survival you might like The Grapes Of Wrath
If you like the theme of lost humanity you might like Heart Of Darkness
If you like reading about a lawless society you might like The Stand