The book, written by a Nobel Prize winner in 1954, is acclaimed as one of the best philosophical novels in the history of English literature. I love to read about love, so William Golding’s book was a challenge for me. As for you, there will be no “in a single evening” to this masterpiece, and you will not be able to comprehend all of the elements quickly after reading it either. Questions about human nature, although designed for YA audience readers, require deeper reflection than “who is the Lord of the Flies?”.
And you will not know about the lord of the flies until the very end of the book. The first pages take the reader to an uninhabited island and a crashed plane that flew a group of teenagers and children. When adults who accompanied them fail to survive, children begin rebuilding civilization, trying to follow moral norms and rules, while waiting for their saviors – parents. Over time, moral norms change, rules are broken, and beastly human nature begins to dominate. What do you become when there are no more limits to your existence? What is more important – the well-being of self or those around you? Where does humanity begin and where does it end? And can a person who has lost his humanity recover it?
Most admirable and, I dare say, the genius choice of the writer to portray protagonists as children. An adult already seems to have well-established moral norms and a substantiated, strong position. He would not look at survival as a game but would create a civilization with greater responsibility, which, in this case, is lacking for children. The democratic society led by twelve-year-old Ralph is a reference to the closest parallel he knowns – the class elder and his classmates or the school council and its president. When the equally charismatic Jack appears, the tension is felt, but Ralph resolves this by dividing the group into committees and appointing Jack as one of its chiefs. The logical solution does not work, because the children’s committees are not fulfilling their responsibilities. For example, a group led by Jack has to watch over a flame of a signal but is more interested in hunting and abandons the only way to be spotted by passing ships. Satisfying personal desires becomes the cause of greater disagreement, but even naming the problem at a meeting (which still resembles shouting on top of each other) and other attempts to maintain democratic power turn against the book’s most rational characters. Ralph’s model of civilization is collapsing as Jack’s “divide and rule” approach is gaining more and more followers; democracy is termed as a weakness, and power comes carrying entertainments and feasting.
Halfway through the book, my sympathy for the heroes began to frustrate me – after all, each of them is just trying to maintain order, so why does nothing work? Man desires free will and power – if not against others, then at least for himself, but does the possibility of independent choice unleash the positive features of the personality? What if it is the other way around? Inspirational quotes in everyday life encourage us to act and manage our life according to ourselves, not to consider the norms of society. If we feel restrained by those norms, and finally manage to get free, make independent choices, we can slip up and make terrible mistakes. Many say “money change people” yet the point is not how big our wallet is or how many zeros there are in our bank account, but the feeling of certainty that we can afford to do things. The rich tend to make financial felonies, coverup crimes because they know that money opens the door to anything. Society, while placing us into boxes, forms a fear of behaving against norms and while it is often perceived as the great evil, it protects against making harm to others by dictating the principles of morality. We are not allowed to kill and steal only because of our consciousness and the law, but if laws are eliminated, we can hardly rely on a gut feeling to stop us. The writer clearly suggests the conclusion that evil is inherent and empowered in the loss of responsibility. Even intellectuality (Piggy) or harmony with nature (Simon) or rationality (Ralph) dies in the fight against boundlessness. That death can be real (The Purge franchise), or a non-literal (Ralph loses self-confidence, begins to question his decisions, and becomes an outcast).
The book leaves room for reflection on other topics as well: religion, the philosophical concept of humanity, the analysis of the importance of hope in life, etc. Even in the end, you will not stop analyzing; what kind of life awaits after a traumatic childhood? Violence is heart-breaking, although it is enacted in the reader’s mind, so if you will not close your eyes and imagine it, it will not be so scary. And if you are looking for something that will make you question your entire existence, you will not regret reading William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies.