Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
David

Lord of the Flies

Recommended Posts

I'm not sure that Lord of the Flies has always been done a great favour by being included so ubiquitously on O-Level/GCSE set text lists. There will always be a number of enlightened souls who are able to see it as a piece of literature to be enjoyed and not simply part of the examination slog, but for the most part I suspect it has a similar negative effect as morning hymn-singing, which is guaranteed to put you off organised religion for life.

 

The premise of innate evil within all of us (fallen humanity, if you like) has always been of fascination to me, both in literature and real life (as in the famous experiment turning university students into 'prisoners' and 'guards' and watching the growing sadism of those given arbitrary power). Golding tackles this in most of his novels, but perhaps most simply and movingly in this one. It is a beautifully crafted book, interweaving convincing characters with intricate symbolism effortlessly, in a deceptively simple style.

 

The high imaginative concept of all Golding's novels is what appeals so much to me. If you've only read LOTF, why not try The Inheritors, which takes the concept of the Garden of Eden and overlays it on credible anthropology, with the focus of the book being on a group of Neanderthals who try to understand the coming of 'the new people', i.e. modern man: us. As with LOTF, innocence and 'evil' are contrasted and it is a tragic novel, but an imaginative tour de force as Golding sheds modern sensibilities to imagine a world view from the simple Neanderthals' perspective.

 

My favourite is perhaps The Spire, which adds a little more complexity to the good/evil question (increasingly the case in the later novels). Here, the Dean of a medieval cathedral believes he has had a vision from God to erect a huge spire on the building, even though structurally, the cathedral should not be able to support it. Dean Jocelin becomes one of Golding's most fascinating characters and the novel eventually becomes as much as anything an esoteric journey into his mind.

 

This journey is also undertaken in Pincher Martin, which is one of the very few novels I wanted to re-read the moment I finished. Golding's books nearly all finish with a startling change of perception that hits you like a hammer, but this one changed everything I had understood about the book. Can't say more than that otherwise it would spoil it.

 

You might have watched the recent To the Ends of the Earth trilogy adaptation, but really it's only the first book, Rites of Passage, that's worth reading. He never actually intended a trilogy, since the story wasn't meant to be about the sea voyage to Australia, rather about a series of events that happen to the characters (inspired by a 'real life' story he had heard about a parson who had literally willed himself to death). When later novels were less sussessful, though, he returned to the voyage - which had sold well - and completed it.

 

Whenever there is news of the terrible things that people do, I so often find my thoughts turning back to Golding and his insights about 'The Beast'. Especially when children are involved, as in the terrible murder of Jamie Bulger - about which Golding wrote one of his very last newspaper articles shortly before his death. There may not be a vast range to the ideas he tackles in all his novels, but there is a compelling depth and constant re-imagining of one of the oldest themes in our existence, reaching right back to the stories of Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel. He once claimed he knew the Bible by heart (doubt that extended to A begat B begat C...), and whilst the religious dimension is undoubtedly there, it is never obtrusive or preachy. You don't need to be religious to believe in evil, after all!

 

Well, those are some of my favourites; what do others think of Golding?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Lord of the The Flies is the only book by Golding that I have read, and that was so long ago that I remember little but the things that everybody knows. I did read it for 'pleasure' 'though, not for study.

 

You have really whetted my appetite for his other books, which is a bit of a problem, as my TBR pile is getting out of hand.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

LotF is the only Golding book I've read. I somehow managed to avoid it whilst still in education so I approached it by choice. It's one of those books that has been ingrained into popular culture through various tv and film references. Mostly because the overriding themes in the book are universal and translate easily into any form. (The most memorable for me was the Simpsons episode where all of the school kids get stranded).

 

I picked up the book through bookcrossing a few months back recognising it as a modern classic that I'd never read. It proceeded to sit on my bedside table being ignored until I stumbled across a book whose publisher was proclaiming it as "the 21st Century's Lord of the Flies." I ordered the book and picked LotF from it's dusty resting place.

 

I'm so glad that I did. I think a great book can be defined by it's accessibility. According to the readers level of understanding this book can be very simple or extremely complex. I enjoyed the subtlety too. I loved how the accident or crash was never fully explained, how there was little or no reference to the characters lives before they were stranded (apart from selective moments that made important points).

 

I found Simon's character the most interesting because it didn't fall into any particular stereotype. While all of the other character stereotypes were well chosen and well executed I still felt they were all to straight forward and clean cut.

 

Overall it's a well written, important book that has strong and vital messages. I might have never given this book much thought if it had been forced on me in school, or I might have seen more in it than I have, but I'm glad to have read it. After enjoying so much I have a feeling the the "21st Century" version might be over-hyped.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lord of the Flies is the only Golding book I have read as well. I first had to read it for O'Level English and enjoyed it very much (unlike the others we had to read). I have reread it several times since, the last time being about a year ago. I love this book very much and will continue to reread it every now and again.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I studied it at school too, but I haven't read it since then and it still evokes powerful memories for me, particularly towards the end. It was probably the first book that I read that really shocked me with what it had to say about human nature.

 

It's very bleak and harrowing, but an incredible story nonetheless.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can only echo FLS's thoughts. I read this in school for Standard Grade and enjoyed it very much. I still remember the whole story and how shocked I was by it. I think I still have a copy languishing on the bookshelf - will need to reread it sometime.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm not sure that Lord of the Flies has always been done a great favour by being included so ubiquitously on O-Level/GCSE set text lists. There will always be a number of enlightened souls who are able to see it as a piece of literature to be enjoyed and not simply part of the examination slog, but for the most part I suspect it has a similar negative effect as morning hymn-singing, which is guranteed to put you off organised religion for life.

Agreed.

 

 

You might have watched the recent To the Ends of the Earth trilogy adaptation, but really it's only the first book, Rites of Passage, that's worth reading. He never actually intended a trilogy, since the story wasn't meant to be about the sea voyage to Australia, rather about a series of events that happen to the characters (inspired by a 'real life' story he had heard about a parson who had literally willed himself to death). When later novels were less sussessful, though, he returned to the voyage - which had sold well - and completed it.

 

 

 

I have read the To the Ends of the Earth trilogy and yes it was only the first book that was worth it. I remember feeling disappointed by the TV production, but can't clearly remember why that was.

 

 

The other books you mention sound tempting. I must get them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It was probably the first book that I read that really shocked me with what it had to say about human nature.

 

It's very bleak and harrowing, but an incredible story nonetheless.

 

I would agree totally with this, it's the book that started me out thinking about human society, how we've evolved, basic human nature etc. It's one I need to re-read. It's shocking but also incredibly fascinating to think that in certain circumstances this is what humans revert to. I haven't read anything on the experiment you mention David, but I believe it's similar to the German film Das Experiment? (which I would highly recommend).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I read it a few weeks ago having been forced to read it in 1993 for my GCSEs. I didn't like it then and I didn't like it now.

 

The premise is good but it just feels rushed through to me. I always have a problem with 'descents into madness' that happen to quickly and I felt this was the case here.

 

Maybe I'm just used to reading longer books but they seemed to land and become little sods within days!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Maybe I'm just used to reading longer books but they seemed to land and become little sods within days!
I'm sure that if Golding wrote it now it would be well over 500 pages, but that wasn't the fashion back in the 50s.

I've just pulled half a dozen off the nearest bookshelf, and all are under 300pp, most are well under 250.

(No wonder I'm not reading as many books as I used to :rolleyes: )

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I really like Lord Of The Flies. I remember having to read it in school, and because it was forced on me, I didn't enjoy it that much. I reread it a few years ago, and was happily surprised to find that I enjoyed it far more (I think your enjoyment of books can be greatly affected by whether or not you are reading it out of choice or not).

 

I haven't read The Inheritors, but it sounds like an interesting premise. I must look out for it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I really admire Golding's writing. Besides LOTF I've read The Inheritors and Rites of Passage.

 

I read The Inheritors in one sitting as was so engrossed by it and will never forget the images it left in my mind, especially towards the end. Won't spoil.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm another who read it for GCSE. I loved my english lessons so I loved it then even though we had the book 'forced' on us by our teacher. I think we might have watched a film of it in our english lessons too which is always good for that graveyard slot after lunch when the classroom warms up in the sun, you've just had your lunch and all you can think of doing is resting your eyes...one at a time to begin with...

 

I would love to read it again now I'm not 16 anymore and see what I make of it as an adult.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm reading Julian Barnes's Flaubert's Parrot just now and there's a section where the fictional narrator looks back on factual mistakes made in books. One he mentions is the scene where one of the boys in LOTF, Piggy, starts a fire using his spec lenses. He points out that Piggy is myopic (short-sighted) so his spec lenses would definitely NOT converge the sun's rays. You would need the specs belonging to a long-sighted person to do that. Interesting, huh? JB does it in a totally non pedantic way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have just finished reading Lord of The Flies as I seem to be one of the few that never studied it at school. The advantage this has given me is that, unlike family members and friends, who hate the book to this day due to the drawling through it at school, I was able to enjoy it.

I understand the idea of having this book on a GCSE/A level syllabus, but am wondering, does a lot of the impact of the descending social standards and failure of humanity get lost in translation to so a young audience?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I understand the idea of having this book on a GCSE/A level syllabus, but am wondering, does a lot of the impact of the descending social standards and failure of humanity get lost in translation to so a young audience?

 

Is the book really about 'descending social standards' and 'the failure of humanity' or just a reflection of the way it is? Piggy and Ralph seem to me to uphold pretty decent standards and humanity can only be seen to have 'failed' if you take a godlike perspective.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would argue that the book reflects that society does fail and lower its social standards, when put under intense pressure regardless of the near perfect morals the majority of society fell they possess. It shows that people (in this case case children) can function to an acceptable measure whilst operating within everyday conditions but once those conditions change the true nature and integrity of each individual is revealed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I read it by choice about a month ago based on the fact that my partner couldn't put it down. He let me read the first page while he was still reading (he said it grabbed him and it totally understood why).

 

I didn't really think of it in terms of religion and I'm glad I didn't as I think having that feel on it might have ruined it for me. To me it was more like various social experiments I've read/seen where pre-conceptions of roles and responsibilities have instilled certain behaviour within the participants.

 

To me the children in LOTF were often acting how they had seen adults acting - eventually for some of them the base instincts came out.

 

I'd have liked a bit more information on the young children as they were the truely innocent.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On ‎25‎/‎06‎/‎2007 at 07:49, Jeremy DEagle said:

The premise is good but it just feels rushed through to me. I always have a problem with 'descents into madness' that happen to quickly and I felt this was the case here.

 

Maybe I'm just used to reading longer books but they seemed to land and become little sods within days!

 

How long does it take to get very hungry? Just a few days.

 

Plus these are kids so their ability to function with any degree of reason is clearly restricted. They allow their immaturity, their irrational fear of the beast, and their personal boyish resentments (more present and problematic than adult resentments) to hasten their demise. The presence of the littleuns would also intensify their sense of being adults.

 

I wasn't massively bowled over by the book, though a lot of the writing and description was good. In truth, I'm tempted to put this book in the category of "first to do it." in other words, had the book been written today, I doubt it would make a major impact. It's well worth reading but given the ubiquity of the "Lord of the Flies" trope (descending into savagery) it felt like I'd already read the thing -- its premise being so well-known now.

 

The story is essentially told and retold in countless other fictions (I would count Breaking Bad as an example) but Golding explored it first (in an accessible form at least) so he gets the kudos.

Edited by hux

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I read LotF at school.  I did like it but can't remember why now and I don't remember much about the story either.  I had no idea that Golding had written other books simply because it never occurred to me to look. To Kill A Mockingbird was (at that point) the only book Harper Lee wrote so I just assumed that Golding had only written LotF. 

 

I have read The Spire, which I thought was a amazing and I've read The Paper Men which I also love. I have just finished The Inheritors and wasn't that keen on it, I'm not sure why.

Edited by lunababymoonchild

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

  • Similar Content

    • By David
      This is obviously a book that is fundamentally 'about' Jocelin, though of course that in itself is a little simplistic.

      Golding in most of his books is interested in the business of good and evil. I think part of the reason why Lord of the Flies is his most popular book is because it speaks very clearly about this in quite an accessible way. In many senses it works like a fable, with the artificial setting of the island, away from normal society, and its characters are fairly clear-cut. At one end of the spectrum is Simon, the Christ-like figure, whilst at the other is Roger, the cruel sadist. Jack sits towards the Roger end whilst Ralph and Piggy are towards Simon's. In other words - and I'm grossly simplifying it here - good and evil are given relatively clear vessels, though the ultimate message is that evil - the beast - is in all of us.

      The Spire, even though it is removed in time with its medieval setting, seems more 'real' in that good and evil are far more mixed. There is no specialised setting to bring out the truth that's within us; instead we see in Jocelin a man who is deeply flawed but with good intentions; the good and evil exist in a strange alliance, shown symbolically through the angel at his back which is then replaced by the scourging devil.

      Here I think people may disagree - if I read some of the comments on the main thread correctly I think Jocelin was roundly despised as having little worth. Well, I don't see him like that.

      Yes, he definitely suffers from the sin of pride (the Devil's sin). His vanity is ultimately behind the erection of the spire (read that how you will...) and at times he thinks in ways that set him on a par with God, almost. He sees the people as tiny and parts of the great plan, with him as the overseer - something that is played even more overtly when he ascends the construction and sees the tiny business of the world below. Indeed, he clearly uses these people, most heinously exploiting Roger Mason's relationship with Goody to keep him there.

      He is arrogant, pig-headed and self-deceiving.

      But...

      It's clear he really does believe he has been given a vision. He sees himself as God's vessel and whilst we can easily dismiss that as his arrogance, what if Isaiah had decided, "No, God can't really be speaking to me, can he? I'd best be humble and not say anything."

      He believes this is God's plan and that it is his duty to see it through in the face of all the opposition of those who look only at the physical reality of the building, not at God's almighty power. When everything is brought to its terrible climax with the spire after Jehan botches the rigging in the absence of Roger Mason, Jocelin truly believes that if the holy Nail is driven home then that will save it. He puts himself at great risk in the howling storm to climb the tower and knock it in.

      In an earlier moment of crisis he kneels beneath the whining stones, possibly with the whole structure about to crash onto his head, trying in a sense to take its weight on his back, having faith that it can be saved because it is God's will.

      I love the revelatory moments when we see glimpses of what Jocelin has become - shrunken and skeletal, his eyes sunk into his head, all through the stresses and strain of the project.

      In other words, as doomed as we know the spire to be, from his perspective he is doing good. Perhaps that's where the analogies with the Garden of Eden come in - his essential goodness undone by the temptations of evil, be that misguided pride or the latent sexuality that rears its head ever more strongly in relation to Goody Pangall.

      By the end, like a Shakespearean tragic hero, he sees the truth too late. I think there is great power in the times when he suddenly sees Father Adam with unclouded eyes, no longer dismissing him as Father Anonymous but taking the time to look closely at his kind eyes. Also with Anselm, when he asks not for forgiveness of what he did, but of who he is. That's just a perfect revelation of the self. In a sense it's like Simon's realisation of the beast within - something also emerging from a trance-like state and as a pre-cursor to death.

      So, there's some thoughts; as with the other thread I've got lots more if people fancy talking about it, but I won't drone on!
    • By Bill
      If you buy The Spire via the BGO Amazon link a small proportion of the sale will go towards the maintenance of this forum
    • By Dan
      The Paper Men by William Golding is my first foray into non-LotF writing by Golding, and,despite my disappointment with this novel, it won't be my last.
      Wilfred Barclay is an arrogant and alcoholic 'famous literary author' nearing the end of his career. Rick Tucker is an ambitious American biographer who wants to be the great man's Bosley. But Wilf has skeletons he'd prefer to keep closeted. But Tucker is determined, and shameless, and pursues Barclay with vigor.
      And that is the book. Barclay, who narrates, does end up telling us some of the details of his many peccadilloes, while globetrotting to avoid Tucker. But there is more style than substance here. Although the style is superb! Golding can sculpt a sentence! And that is why I will read more of his work. But there just wasn't a whole lot of story here, and the whole exercise seemed rather self indulgent. But it was sure fun in places. 3.5stars
    • By Adrian
      Now this is how a writer ought to imagine an unknown world. There's something special going in a writer's brain when he manages to come up with this idea: Neanderthals roaming the land with only their sharpened sticks and thick, dark hair.
       
      I'm only a few chapters in, but Golding has imagined a world and a people that could have existed. It's all so unlikely and yet so obvious that you just have to roll with it. But now I really need a shave!
       
      Thanks to David, who mentioned Golding as a writer worth watching out for apart from his obvious book, and many thanks to my library, who still have this book on the shelf with date stamps from before I was born.
    • By David
      The Spire was discussed as part of the BGO book group. You can read the posts here and add to the discussion.
×
×
  • Create New...