When I was about fourteen, one of my best friends Sian and I gate crashed a year-ten drama trip to a near by theatre to watch Lord of the Flies. I remember little of the play itself other than the deeply unsettling feeling I was left with when the curtains closed. Thus upon discovering that William Golding’s Lord of the Flies was featured on the BBC’s Big Read, I was somewhat reluctant to read it. However, having been recommended it by my cousin Hal, and upon finding a battered copy in a book shop near my work, I decided to give it a go.
Published in 1954, Lord of the Flies is a dystopian novel by nobel-prize winning English author William Golding, about a group of boys stuck on an uninhabited island who try to govern themselves with disastrous results. When it was first published, Golding’s debut novel suffered from poor sales but when re-released in the 1960s it went on to be a best-seller, and soon became required reading in many schools and colleges.
The main protagonists are Ralph, Piggy, Roger, Jack and Simon all of whom are vividly portrayed throughout the novel. Ralph is chief of the group; Piggy, poor-sighted and overweight is his side-kick, Roger is one of the first to develop animalistic tendencies, Jack epitomises the worst aspects of human nature while Simon is a representation of peace and tranquility.
The novel follows the boys as they try to survive on the island by implementing a set of rules and regulations to follow. However, as the rules disintegrate, Jack forms his own tribe of terror, and events in the book progress from simple bullying to stylised animal rape and eventually murder. Golding effectively uses these episodes to explore the darkness of man’s heart, and the novel can show us what we are capable of in a similar situation.
A chilling yet compelling read with stunning imagery and great use of symbolism, Lord of the Flies is both a great piece of literature and a dire warning about humanity.