Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

Other authorsE. L. Epstein (Afterword)
Paperback, 2003

Call number

FICT GOL

Collection

Genres

Publication

Penguin Books (2003), Edition: Reissue, 224 pages

Description

Following a world war, a group of school boys survives a plane crash on a deserted island and creates a hellish environment leading to savagery and murder. Two leaders--one civilized, one depraved--epitomize the forces that war eternally in the human spirit.

Media reviews

There is no blinking the fact that this English schoolmaster turned novelist understands growing boys to the heart; one must go back to"High Wind in Jamaica" to find a comparable tour de force. The uneasy conviction persists that he despises the child who is father to the man-and the man as well. Homo sapiens needs all the friends he can find these days, in and out of novels.
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"Lord of the Flies" is an allegory on human society today, the novel's primary implication being that what we have come to call civilization is, at best, skin deep. With undertones of "1984" and "High Wind in Jamaica," this brilliant work is a frightening parody on man's return (in a few weeks) to that state of darkness from which it took him thousands of years to return. Fully to succeed, a fantasy must approach very close to reality. "Lord of the Flies" does. It must also be superbly written. It is.

User reviews

LibraryThing member bragan
Unlike large numbers of schoolchildren, I was never forced to read this book for class. But it's impossible not to know the story anyway, as it shows up in zillions of pop culture references, zillions of homages and parodies and works-inspired-by. Whether you've read it or not, you know what it's about, right? British schoolboys, stranded on a deserted island with no adults, slowly turn into murderous little barbarians, more or less. I always like to go back and visit the source material for these stories everybody knows, though. Often I get some interesting surprises.

So, I did finally get around to reading this, and I I'm honestly not sure what to make of it. I have to say, I didn't always get along with the writing style, for reasons I can't entirely put my finger on. The fact that I often had trouble telling which character was speaking is probably part of it, but I don't think it's just that. I don't know... Sometimes it was oddly compelling, and sometimes it was mildly annoying, and I have no explanation for either response.

It is a powerfully symbolic book. The author has something very definite to say about human nature and the fragile veneer that is civilization. Just about everything plays into that, directly or metaphorically, and there's some pretty effective imagery behind it. On the other hand, I can't help but think that it's all a bit too symbolic. I mean, there are places where it's practically jumping up and down shouting, "Look at my symbolism! Look at it! Do you get the idea yet?" And while everything the kids do in the story is plausible enough, if you're in a cynical mood, they seldom felt to me quite like real, living, breathing kids. I always felt a certain emotional distance from them, which is too bad. I can't help but think that the more real and visceral the events in this book might have felt, the more effectively disturbing they would have been.

I also don't fully agree with the novel's view of human nature. Yes, there's a lot of ugliness in human beings, and yes, I can imagine something like this happening, but thematically, it just all seems a little too simplistic. It's also pretty clearly informed by certain colonialist ideas about the nature of "civilization" and "savagery" that are problematic. "Savage" here means both "violent, selfish, irrational and amoral" and "one of those people who paint their faces, go half-naked, do tribal dances and chants, and have beliefs that look to us like superstition." The truth is, of course, that people in tribal societies are as capable of being as prosocial as anybody, and this particular notion of savagery, which William Golding's own culture liked to congratulate itself on having long since overcome, is largely a myth, anyway. And the more I think about that, the less the whole thing works for me, however eloquently it might strive to make its point.

So. Whatever I was hoping for from this book, I don't think I quite got it. But I am glad to have finally read it, and it certainly did get me thinking a bit.
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LibraryThing member writestuff
Some were naked and carrying their clothes; others half-naked, or more or less dressed, in school uniforms, grey, blue, fawn, jacketed, or jerseyed. There were badges, mottoes even, stripes of color in stockings and pullovers. Their heads clustered above the trunks in the green shade; heads brown, fair, black, chestnut, sandy, mouse-colored, heads muttering, whispering, heads full of eyes that watched Ralph and speculated. Something was being done.– from Lord of the Flies, page 13 -

A plane crashes on a deserted island, leaving in its wake children – the only survivors. These children are British school boys, civilized kids with manners and well-versed in respect for authority. There are very small children – the “littluns” who don’t seem to understand the enormity of what has happened. And there are older kids, boys who quickly recognize the need for a leader, a chief of sorts. A new society is forming, and before long survival demands a return to one’s baser instincts.

Lord of the Flies is a classic. Penned in 1954 by Nobel Laureate William Golding, it is a novel which asks deep moral questions and examines what happens when the civilized world is stripped away and individuals are left to create their own society.

Two main characters emerge early on. Ralph is a sandy-haired boy who is quickly chosen to be the “chief” and who focuses on building shelter and maintaining a fire to attract rescue. He holds “assemblies,” where participants are called to participate with a blow from a conch and are designed to maintain order. Jack is a charismatic boy, the leader of a choir of boys, who quickly establishes himself as the hunter, tracking down the wild pigs on the island with a sharpened stick as a spear. Before long, Jack and Ralph are in a competition for leadership with Ralph being the voice of reason, and Jack appealing to the more savage aspects of the boys’ personalities.

Another character, Piggy, emerges as the philosopher and the scapegoat. Piggy is obese, bespectacled, afflicted with asthma, and a bit of a know-it-all. Despite his wisdom (or maybe because of it), he is bullied.

There had grown up tacitly among the biguns the opinion that Piggy was an outsider, not only by accent, which did not matter, but by fat, and ass-mar, and specs, and a certain disinclination for manual labor. – from Lord of the Flies, page 60 -

There is also a fourth character, Simon, who plays an important role in the novel. Simon is a loner, but he is also reasonable and practical and gifted with an insight which the others lack. When talk of a beast begins, it is Simon who refuses to acknowledge a physical beast and instead recognizes that the beast is the fear within them.

These four characters – Jack, Ralph, Simon and Piggy – take center stage in a novel about the disintegration of morals and the descent into savagery.

I first read this novel in high school…and my memory of it is inexact. Of course, I remembered Piggy for his victimization, but in terms of theme, my memory was lacking. During this re-read, the story returned to me and I found it so much more compelling from my adult point of view. Classic literature is defined as something which stands the test of time…and there is no doubt that The Lord of the Flies meets that definition with its memorable characters, shocking twists of plot and ruminations on what it means to be human. Written in the 1950s, it could easily have been penned today.

Lord of the Flies is a novel which will generate great discussion in book groups and in the classroom. It is not an “enjoyable” read, and yet it is an engaging one. There is a good deal of violence in this slim book and I found myself anxious as the plot unfurls and it becomes obvious that things are going very, very wrong.

This is a classic, dysptopian-type novel about good vs. evil, but it also forces the reader to look within and to examine his or her role as part of a larger society.

Highly recommended.… (more)
LibraryThing member HollyinNNV
Ok-I have a big issue with books that use humans as the main characters when the humans do not resemble any humans I have ever met. When a character is too one dimensional, I begin to feel that the author’s message was not very authentic if a realistic person could not deliver the moral. I felt like all of the LofF characters were terribly one dimensional. Piggy is whiney. Jack is homicidal. Simon is crazy. Ralph is a poor leader. And it stands to reason that if the characters are one dimensional, then it will be hard to invest any feeling for them. This was the case. I just really did not care what happened to them in the end. Maybe this story would have been better with dogs or ponies rather than boys.
I have a few more problems with the story. There is a plane crash and a homicidal child maniac just happens to be on board? Only children live and no adults? None of the children are injured in the crash? The children dress in rags because there was no luggage in the crash? Suffice it to say, there are many instances in which the reader must suspend disbelief in order to take much away from the story.
If this book proves anything, it is that some books don’t improve as a person ages. I did not like it in high school. I still do not like it as an adult.
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LibraryThing member sjmccreary
Like every other literate English-speaking person, I've heard of this book but had never read it before now. It is the story of a group of British school boys stranded on a tropical Pacific island following a plane crash. There are no adults, and the island is uninhabited. The story describes how the boys begin to organize themselves and provide for their needs. The story progresses as natural leaders emerge, disagreements over priorities arise, factions develop in the group. The young boys have developed only a thin veneer of civilization, and it wears away quickly in the harsh situation.

I had an audio version of the book, read by the author. (The recording was copyrighted 1977 - Golding died in 1993.) He introduced the book by explaining why he wrote the story about a group of boys, and not girls or a mixed group. After the story, he talked about how different - and contradictory - interpretations have arisen about what the book means. He said the story is about the importance of rules in society. I found the book to be, at turns, fascinating and disturbing, but always totally believable. He shows the whole spectrum of personalities - the thinker, the follower, the hunter, the leader. He also demonstrates how each one has the ability to move a group towards a goal, or hold it back, depending on the group, the goal, and the relative strength of the other people involved. I found it to be a remarkable distillation of the way that modern society operates on a global level. I think this will be one of those extraordinary books that are unforgettable, and I hope to read it again in the future. I highly recommend it.
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LibraryThing member HankIII
A disclaimer: it wasn't my idea to read this book; a colleague selected this book as part of our students' summer reading program.If there was a time in my life that I liked this book, it must have been in the wee hormonal epoch of my early youth. Frankly, I didn't like it. I found myself not having any empathy for the characters; I found the prose rather tedious, and the plot obviously contrived, and it seemed that Golding made a particular, but obvious effort to attempt to tie everything in with symbolic value. It was a book that I begged for immediate merciful closure.A good point: I will not teach this novel during our normal school sessions, and in that aspect, I thought it was a illuminating read.… (more)
LibraryThing member Michael_Godfrey
What do you do with a book that's a cultural icon. I mean I first read it 40+ years ago - I think it was on the English syllabus the year we kiwi students sat our first public examinations. Maybe it was a different year. I wasn't overly impressed. Golding's tale reminded me too much of life at my boarding school. Though I don't think anyone was ever killed. On the other hand no British Officer rescued us, either. Only time and arguably clandestine alcohol did that.

But dammit that's it, isn't it. Golding's first novel became iconic because he encapsulated the human condition. He was I believe no theologian, but he narrated an Augustinian gloom of the world: humanity is depraved and is so from the moment we step out of the womb or a crashed aircraft or whatever. Piggy will always be killed. Oh. Sorry. Was that a spoiler?

Except Golding didn't depict that at all. He tried to. That humanity has a volition to hyenaesque behaviour has been well expressed by a myriad artists in the entire darkened kaleidoscope of available media. Some even incorporated females into their narratives. Ooops - did Golding forget them in his pastiche?

Wooden stereotypical characters doth not a fable make. When Golding later scored a Nobel it certainly was not for Lord of the Flies. Wooden characters do predictable things, behaving like a bunch of silly twitty English Public Schoolboys until such time as they end up behaving like silly twitty English Public Schoolboys without any meandering super-ego to check their id-iotic impulses. See what I did there?

The characters are devoid of personality. Piggy is a walking cliche. Jack and Ralph are dueling cliches. Simon seems reasonably unimportant, pops up a couple of times doing unimportant things, then doesn't. Samneric prove that Golding doesn't know enough about twins. War paint serves as a symbolic outer skin so weak as a vehicle of meaning that the boys might as well have worn trench-coats proclaiming (in Latin, of course) we are walking advertisements of the thin veneer of human decency.

Basically, it's all terribly spiffing until it's not. There. I've spoiled it for you. My assessment of the book in the mid-'70s hasn't changed. Life's too short and then shit happens.
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LibraryThing member prof_brazen_guff
A genuine classic of timeless quality. Golding uses a group of boys represent the mores and motivations of the society they have left behind. Each reading of the novel provides a new insight. Highly recommended.
LibraryThing member 5hrdrive
Lord of the Flies is the perfect metaphor for the 2016 Presidential Election. You've got your overweight person who gets mocked non-stop "Piggy, Piggy, Piggy!", your unpopular parliamentarian trying to govern, and your alpha-male nut job who thinks he can get away with whatever the hell he wants. Maybe this would have read differently in any other year, but not in 2016. The election is tomorrow - I hope we all come to our senses and start acting like adults.… (more)
LibraryThing member Carmenere
Although this short novel started out rather slowly I stuck with it mainly because of the endearing and wise character, Piggy who with his fellow classmates, crash onto a deserted tropical island. A leader is soon chosen and duties such as building shelters, keeping a fire burning and hunting for food are dispersed amoungst the survivors. The first half of the novel basicallly lays the ground work for confrontation. Those who were instructed to keep the fire lit, do not. Those who hunt turn savage. This continues for a good portion of the book but it takes the untimely death of a sympathetic character to get the story into full gear. Life and death, good vs. evil, selfishness vs. selflessness are some of the moral circumstances presented and then remain with the reader who asks herself what could have been done differently to prevent such chaos.… (more)
LibraryThing member the.ken.petersen
When I were a lad, my school believed that literature ceased to be produced after 1899: as this book tends to be a school reader, I have missed out on Golding until now.

This is an excellent book which appears to be a simple story but actually looks at the human condition and Britishness in particular. The tale purports to be that of a group of English boys being repatriated from the far east during the Second World War. Their plane crashes onto a desert island but the pilot is killed. The boys set up a community and try to delegate jobs. The system quickly collapses and the boys split into two rival gangs. Children are murdered and man's inhumanity to man soon comes to the fore.

The ending, when a fire is spotted by a passing Royal Navy ship is priceless. The officer who comes on to the island to investigate is saddened by what has happened and comes up with the immortal line, "I should have thought a pack of British boys ... would have been able to put up a better show."
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LibraryThing member varwenea
“Hide, Break the Line, or Climb a Tree” – What would you do to escape the savages?

From boys (biguns and littluns) to savages with no names (‘This was not Bill. This was a savage whose image refused to blend with the ancient picture of a boy in shorts and shirt. ’) and finally back to little boys (simply all of them), Lord of the Flies explores this transformation where priorities shifted from being rescued to being dominant – represented by hunting, both for food and for complete control of the island. What happened? A sense of survival? A need to outshine others? Pride? Uncontrollable raw instincts? (Including sexual)

In this short book, Golding tells the story of a group of shipwrecked boys, their initial organizational structure, their descent into something completely different, and their ultimate rescue, minus at least 3… Of course, nothing can be simple in this symbolic and visually descriptive book. It’s difficult to escape the images of an oasis – beaches, trees, conveniently with fruit trees, coconuts to use as holders, fresh water, a reachable high point to have a fire, piglets for meat. The decline to savagery took a rapid turn upon the vicious hunt and kill of the sow – the representation of mother and mother-nature – plus an added gruesomeness via an implied sexual element.

“Here, struck down by the heat, the sow fell and the hunters hurled themselves at her. This dreadful eruption from an unknown world made her frantic; she squealed and bucked and the air was full of sweat and noise and blood and terror. Roger ran round the heap, prodding with his spear whenever pigflesh appeared. Jack was on top of the sow, stabbing downward with his knife. Roger found a lodgment for his point and began to push till he was leaning with his whole weight. The spear moved forward inch by inch and the terrified squealing became a high-pitched scream. Then Jack found the throat and the hot blood spouted over his hands. The sow collapsed under them and they were heavy and fulfilled upon her…… Roger began to withdraw his spear and the boys noticed it for the first time… ‘Right up her ass!’”

Golding’s word choices and phrases are simple yet powerful. Exhausted boys are “The boys laid, panting like dogs.” And after the night of savage dance that took Simon’s life: “Memory of the dance that none of them had attended shook all four boys convulsively.”

What in our human nature manages/controls our savage senses? Our ethical nature, not government or society, at least according to the epilogue note from E. L. Epstein.

The finale:

On relief and on the pain of memory – once the burden is removed, upon the appearance of the naval officer:
“Ralph looked at him dumbly. For a moment he had a fleeting picture of the glamour that had once invested the beaches. But the island was scorched up like dead wood – Simon was dead – and Jack had…. The tears began to flow and sobs shook him. He gave himself up to them now for the first time on the island; great, shuddering spasms of grief that seemed to wrench his whole body. His voice rose under the black smoke before the burning wreckage of the island; and infected by that emotion, the other little boys began to shake and sob too. And in the middle of them, with filthy body, matted hair, and unwiped nose, Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.”

~ BUT ~ who is to save the adults from our savagery – as we go to war (reference the rescuer being a naval officer) or have other acts of violence? I think that’s the ultimate unanswered question from Golding.
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LibraryThing member dste
I hated this book. I couldn't find myself identifying with or even liking any of the characters. The descent into barbarianism was horrific, and I couldn't find a single thing to enjoy in the entire thing. I have no doubt that others might enjoy it greatly, but it just isn't my kind of book.
LibraryThing member endersreads
Somewhere deep within the chaotic realm of middle school, I remember having first read "Lord of the Flies". It is an apt microcosmic account of the polarization that would take place should society suddenly find itself without law and given over to anarchy. There would be 3 main categories of people: The Ralphs; struggling to provide law and order where there is little hope for it, the Piggies; who would be crushed and overtaken by the strong without the protection of law and order, and the Jacks of the world; who would immediately come into power. Indeed the Jacks of the world are always in power. They are the ruthless, the savage, the borne dictators. Ralph's government was a Republic. Jack's government was a militaristic ruthless and base empire with little to no regard for the individual, with the exception of the individual at the head. There is another type of individual we find in the story who I most relate to--that being the non-participant who stares of into strange other-worlds. The Simons of the world.… (more)
LibraryThing member Daniel.Estes
I read Lord of the Flies for the first time in my 10th grade English class, and I remember liking it more than the usual assigned tedium, but I also remember the drowsy discussions on symbolism and theme that threatened to zap the life from Golding's novel.

This time around, I read it for fun. Ralph, Piggy, Jack and all the others are so awkwardly mid-20th century British that you can't help but want to be friends with them. Once the story gets going though, and the boys de-evolve into something timelessly primal, nearly everything all the way to the final moment is perfectly executed. The pacing, the character development, and that right amount of horrific violence that still causes me to shudder when I recall it—all of it is inspired.… (more)
LibraryThing member eas311
Maybe books read in school should be held to lighter standards, but I did NOT like this book. It was too dark and sad for me. I mean, are we really that close to barbarism? I was a 14 year old girl when I read this and all I could think was: this is a book for boys.
LibraryThing member carterchristian1
I had resisted reading this for a long time, but now adding my daughter's books to Librarything I have given in and sampled the adventures of Ralph, Jack, Piggy and an island that is seductive, distasteful as are the boys. If it is the 34th most popular book in Library Thing and as of this writing saps say 224 available but 241 wanted it must still be very popular. "Boy" literature...say Huck Finn, Catcher in the Rye has an appeal...but is it primarily for boys and some men. Yes, I think so. Frankly I find the book revolting. But it did keep me reading.… (more)
LibraryThing member Kristelh
The Lord of The Flies written by William Golding in 1954 is recognized as a young adult classic about boys stranded on an island. There are no adults, only boys and they are all British but not previously known to each other. Ralph is happy to be on the island where their are no adults or rules, so is Jack. Their is rivalry between Ralph and Jack to be the leaders of the boys but Ralph is chosen and Jack is designated the hunter. Golding described the theme as "an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature" depending on the nature of the individual rather than any political system. The book is symbolic. The Lord of the Flies is the head of pig that Jack has killed. The boys become fearful of the unknown beast. Simon proposes that the beast really is them but the others don't listen to Simon. Piggy is the voice of the intellect and no one but Ralph listens to him. I watched the 1963 movie at least two times in English class during high school but do not think I had ever read it. The book does not leave you feeling good because even though adults come to the island finally, the savage nature in the boys is still an innate part of their being.… (more)
LibraryThing member Mikalina
What is civilization? What is humanism? Golding shows us how easy it is to fall, from a logical foreward thinking lifestyle to a fear-founded beastly regime. He demonstrates the fragility of the human project by telling what happens to an isolated group of juvenile men/boys before the capacity to tell right from wrong has become strongly built-in voice, an authority we carry with us where ever we go.
I think the book is one of the strongest argument I know of in favor of cultural institutions - man is but an animal until he has learnt otherwise.... It is scary then, seeing so many of our traditional cultural lighthouses being under attack - mostly by indifference and lack of knowledge, and the loss of historical sense spreading. A must on any shortlist - if the goal still is cultivation
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LibraryThing member arelenriel
Scary picture of what happens to a group of children left to their own devices after a tragedy deprives them of adult supervison.
LibraryThing member JechtShot
Welcome to the dystopian boyscout camp know as Lord of the Flies. The book begins with a plane crash and a group of young boys are forced to fend for themselves on an island with no adult supervision. In the beginning, democracy prevails, but this is soon shattered as the boys begin to get in touch with their savage roots.

William Golding explores human nature by demonstrating to the reader that without guidance and order the primitive nature of man will resurface. This book is, without a doubt, pure symbolism from cover to cover. The "story" wrapped around the inner-message of the novel accentuates the authors views and the message is delivered loud and clear.
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LibraryThing member reading_fox
Vast amounts of essays and criticisim have been written about this nobel prize inning book since its first publication in '54. However it is just a story, and a dated one at that. I can see how it would have made an impact in the post war culture, but it has not aged gracefully and is not much relevant to today's life.

The premise is that during the world war, an areoplane of school children being evactuated from Englad, crashes on a desert island. Miraculously many of the children escape unharmed but no adults do, nor does any useful remment of wreckage remain either. The story starts some indeterminate time later, although none of the children have met up, until the "hero" Ralph finds a conch shell and a recent aquiantance the fat asthmatic, glasses wearing intellectual "piggy" teaches him how to blow into it and make a noise that summons the others.

Rules are quickly invented and a society of kids forms to try and lok after themselves and keep a signal fire going, however kids are rapidly divereted into hunting and bathing.

This is where the whole books fails, its a very plesant island, no ticks, leaches, insects, bogs, or much else. Fortunetly there are pigs and dry wood. The children are also poorly portrayed to my minds, they are described as varying in age between 6 and 12. However the elder behave far older than 12 and the younger far less.

Believable factions form and the Chiefship changes hands.... with dire results for the pigs, the sgnal fire, and those in the wrong faction.

I wasn't much impressed. It is a short book, fortunately, easily read, but for a contempary novel it requires too much suspension of disbelief, and is over hyped for its classic status.
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LibraryThing member surreality
Plot: The plot itself doesn't matter. It's just the background for the character development. Straightforward and unobtrusive.

Characters: This is why this book has the status it deservedly has. Character development is what drives everything, and it's frightening and fascinating at the same time to see how outer circumstances influence behaviour, and how civilisation is something that is easily changed and lost. To see the changes in the characters is mesmerizing.

Style: It's an easy read, as far as the prose goes. Smooth, with no fancy decorations or artsy bits. The power is in the descriptions, not so much in the dialogue, though that is solid too.

Plus: The gradual deconstruction of modern civilisation.

Minus: The middle parts felt a touch too long.

Summary: One of those books you just have to read.
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LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
I had passed this book in the library on countless occasions, and always made a mental point, soon forgotten, that I wanted to read it. Well, finally, I got around to it.

I enjoyed this, the most famous of Golding's novels, though not as much as I had thought. Perhaps the characters are stuck in their time; perhaps the religious undertones don't work as well now as they used to; perhaps it was just me.

Having said all of that, I do think that the Lord of the Flies is a well-written book, and certainly worth remembering. It's made me want to read more by Golding.
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LibraryThing member sdtaylor555
Very neat book. Interesting, exciting. Hard to take sometimes, but never a dull moment.
LibraryThing member heidilove
i loved this book. i'm glad i read it before it was required though, as the teacher i had at the time didn't just investigate this novel, she flat killed it.

Pages

224

ISBN

0399501487 / 9780399501487

Lexile

770L
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