Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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

Call number





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


Bij een groep jongens, door oorlogsomstandigheden op een tropisch eiland aangespoeld, vormt zich een nieuw groepsbesef, dat in deze omgeving door de opgewekte primitieve horde-instincten tot huiveringwekkende gevolgen leidt.

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 ellenmarine
Probably the best book I've ever read. The story charts the adventure, and subsequent descent into savagery, of a plane-full of boys, whose transport crashes, killing the few adults on board. Their refuge is a small island, on which they do not manage to cohabit peacefully for long.

This is a brilliantly imaginative (and probably quite plausible) investigation into a hypothetical microcosm containing only young boys, and situated in what is essentially a very lonely, isolated place, with no rules or regulations except those they ordain for themselves. The narrative is intense and gripping; the characters plausible and engaging. The unpleasantness of some scenes are not to everyone's taste, but I'd recommend it to just about anyone else. Awesome book.… (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 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.
LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
This could be called the most chilling sociological experiment of all times (besides Richard Connell's The Most Dangerous Game.) What happens when you take the most prim and organized society (proper English boys from a prep school), hand it the suggestion of chaos and violence (they are escaping a nuclear war), then leave it to its own devices without guidance (a deserted island without adults)? All normalcy goes out the window when the boys try to build their own hierarchical, structured society. In a Darwinian approach some boys, the strongest & smartest, rise to the top while weaker boys become scapegoats and victims of paranoia. In the beginning the group is held together by necessity. They recognize the need for fairness and organization, especially if they want to be rescued. But all that vanishes when the younger boys become increasingly convinced there is a monster on the island. No amount of rationalizing can calm them. Fear and violence escalates until there is no turning back. All calm is lost to tragedy.… (more)
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 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 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 magst
I didn't enjoyed it as much when I was a senior in high school, but now that I have reread it I think it's a wonderful book!
LibraryThing member amandacb
Such an impactful little novel. Drop a microcosm of humanity on an island, strip away society, and what would happen? Exactly what usually happens. It's so eye-opening, and students love to debate what we inherently know ourselves versus what society instills within us. Plus, what would have happened if a group of girls were dropped on that island? Always a fun question to debate. However enthusiastic I may seem about this novel, please know it depresses the hell out of me every time I read it. Golding is not saying we will all end up holding hands and singing around the campfire. His vision of humanity is raw, dim, dank, and utterly realistic.… (more)
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 elliepotten
I've had this on my bookshelves since I was a young teen, so it was about time I read it really. Unfortunately for such a highly anticipated read, I wasn't as blown away by it as I'd hoped. I wanted a kind of Coral Island-esque adventure that gradually descended into savagery and violence; what I GOT was a disappointingly jerky, uneven allegory that glossed over the survival element almost entirely, skipped forward in time in unspecified bounds, and grew quite repetitive at times. As a result, some of the most important and moving scenes didn't have that much impact at all, and the hunters' savagery was less "diminishing sense of civilisation" and more "well, that escalated quickly". It took me a surprisingly long time to read such a short novel - well over two weeks - and sadly the cover remains my favourite thing about it!… (more)
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 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 jrissman
Lord of the Flies is a survival story about a group of British schoolboys stranded on an uninhabited, tropical island. Its strength lies in its insights into children's psychology, particularly when left alone without adult supervision and social structure. The book is short and the plot events, if sometimes a bit improbable, at least serve to keep the action moving. It is also good to read because it is a well-known work which will sometimes be mentioned or referenced in popular culture or life. The book does not earn a 5th star, in part because the plot is not sufficiently compelling, and in part because we never get a true "insider's" view of the characters' thoughts- instead seeing them act from the outside, as though the reader were just another observer on the island. In some books this is acceptable, but in a book which is driven by the characters' personalities, morals, and whims, it is a disadvantage.… (more)




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