I guess Lord of the Flies is one of those books that people either love or hate. It’s hit-or-miss. At least that’s the impression you get when you read the reviews. Some praise the book’s profound exploration of human nature whereas others dismiss it as totally unrealistic and exaggerated. As for me, I’ve to admit that I stand somewhere in-between.
Lord of the Flies tells the story of a group of schoolboys who are stranded on a deserted island after a plane crash. At first, the boys attempt to set up rules and establish order. They elect a leader, assign tasks and hold regular meetings. But very soon things start to go wrong. When some boys refuse to follow the rules and break up from the group, tensions arise and soon erupt into violence.
Would real children actually behave so brutally without adult supervision? Well, rather not. And this is why many people find fault with the novel. But I don’t think that’s Golding’s point. It’s not a realist story, it’s not meant to show us how children would really react. It’s much more an allegory, a story of ideas, much like Animal Farm (just that no one has ever complained about talking animals being too unrealistic). So I think this argument isn’t really justified.
What I do find problematic though is Golding’s view on human nature. Golding proposes that humans are inherently evil and that without social constraints, humankind would fall into a state of violence and aggression. But is there really evil within everyone? I don’t think so. But I get why Golding might’ve felt so. Lord of the Flies was published in 1954—6 years after the end of World War II and amid the beginnings of the Cold War. Golding himself spent five years in the Navy. He saw how violent ‘man’ can be. Yet I still think that his point is too generalized. Also, if he really did think all humans are vicious, why didn’t he include any female characters? Would the story be the same if it were a group of girls stranded on the island? (Also would Piggy then become Miss Piggy?). I’m not sure, but it would be interesting to find out.
All in all, I think Lord of the Flies is a story of its time, but is it also a story for all time? I’m not sure. I feel like reading it tells us more about its author and historical context than about human nature. For me, this is a book that only makes sense when it’s read in context.
Have you read Lord of the Flies? How did you like it? Let me know in the comment section below!