I swear, every kid who goes through high school has read this book. Either it was a class study or it was an option on the reading list. And as one of the shortest books on the list (in contrast to, say, the monstrous Crime and Punishment, which coincidently I read instead), just about everybody had at it at some point. Or at least read the first and last sentence of every paragraph. I avoided the book for those very reasons. Who wants to read something everyone else was reading?
Well, out of school now, I turn back to those reading lists for good reading material. Maybe I can pick up on some good classics. Of course, my time is more limited now and so short but exciting is just my ticket.
The book starts off in a haze of confusion. Two boys, named Ralph and Piggy, poking around in a forest. They discuss how they arrived there (an airplane dropped them off) and whether they’ll be rescued soon (the plane was burning and about to crash in the ocean). They figure there must be more boys on the island, so call a meeting (by blowing a conch shell).
The boys obviously don’t know each other and have to find out names and such. They apparantly come from a private school. My big question is, if they were all from the same plane, why don’t they know each other at least somewhat? Were they all such dipsticks that they were all preoccupied with their own thing? I know how kids are, always eager to make a new friend or punch a new enemy. Regardless, they somehow got on this island not knowing who the hell each one of them was.
There are two main age groups. The older kids (12 and a bit younger) and the younger kids (six and a bit older). The older ones take charge. The obvious leaders are Ralph and Jack. Ralph is voted to be top dog, and Jack becomes the kid in charge of hunting. Each has his own little following. Jack has his hunters (which used to be the choir) and Ralph has everybody else.
Ralph’s main concern is getting rescued, followed by making life comfortable until rescue occurs. He gets advice from Piggy, a fat kid with glasses, but also the brains of the group. Jack’s main concern is hunting pigs for food.
They get a fire started using Piggy’s glasses, and use that for smoke to try and signal a ship if one would happen to pass by. The first big clash between Ralph and Jack happen when Jack lets the fire go out because he was busy hunting. Of course, that’s the same time a ship passes.
There is also growing fear amoung the little kids. They’re afraid of a beast who will come and eat them. Slowly, this fear spreads to the big kids, too.
It doesn’t take long for the gap between Ralph and Jack to become unmanageable. Ralph keeps his focus to get rescued by keeping the fire going, while Jack just wants to have fun and hunt. Eventually, Jack splits from the group, taking his hunters to form their own group.
Jack’s group kills a pig and invites Ralph and his clan for some meat. Without hesitation all the other kids leave Ralph and Piggy, who eventually follow to make sure everything goes ok. What they witness and participate in is a frenzied heightening of emotion which ultimately results in murder.
In the emotion of the moment, they were blinded to the fact that it was, in fact, a kid and that they killed him. Afterwords, when Ralph and Piggy return to their camp, they try to deny that it happened. They tell themselves that they were standing outside the circle and couldn’t see what was happening.
The second murder came soon after. Jack let their fire go out, so needed to start a new one. In the middle of the night they snuck into Ralph’s camp and stole Piggy’s glasses. Poor Piggy is blind without them, so there needed to be swift action from Ralph. By this time, Jack had most of the kids under his thumb. Ralph only had himself, Piggy, and the twins. And Piggy is no help without his glasses.
In the confrontation, Roger drops a big rock on Piggy, knocking him into the ocean. He was dead before he landed. Ralph escapes, but the hunt is soon on for him. He knows they’ll gladly kill him after hunting him down. He hides, but is found soon enough. A forest fire is started with all this chaos, and Ralph sees the end coming. He runs. And then grown ups are there. A passing ship has seen the smoke from the forest fire. Rescue has come.
I am really quite shocked at how tame this book is compared to how it was hyped up to be. Sure, there is something sad in kids turned savage, and it’s sad that three kids die (one disappeared naturally at the begining), but I was expecting more.
My favorite character was Piggy. He had a level head and used it, even when others were unsure of what to do. However, blind when the glasses got stolen, he turns into a crutch for Ralph. He became a whimpering, squeeling mess.
Ralph was most definitely the most interesting and least predictable character. He had a rocky begining where he started off as arrogant and uninterested in the less-able kids, but he turns out to have the correct leadership qualities needed for survival and sticks to his guns. Even when all the cards are stacked against him, he’d rather get caught (and most likely killed) than give in to the savage way. He worked for what was needed. When shelter was needed he worked on huts, even when everyone else was out playing.
While the book was disappointing from a story standpoint, it does offer an interesting look into how kids act and react to things. You can’t really fault kids for not having the mental ability to grasp what’s happening and being able to prevent it. I would recommend this book to someone interested in how people work, on the off chance they haven’t read it already in school.