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Lord of the Flies by William Gerald Golding

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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.

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About The Theory

  • Eric Olsen

    I think it goes beyond how kids react to show how very shallow is “civilization,” and makes us realize how much effort goes into maintaining our “civilized” ways: that’s why we have so many laws, taboos, so much social pressure, so many norms, etc.

    A terrifying and thought-provoking book.

  • The Theory

    it does have a social commentary beyond “kids”… but still not very terrifying.

  • Dawn

    Of all the books I was forced to read in high school, this is one of my all time favorites.

    Still is.

    The scenario, though barely plausible by today’s standards is universal.

    What happens when people, in this case, small boys and adolescent boys are left to their own devices.

    It is the classic good vs. evil, but far more complicated as these are children not adults. The psychology of the adolescent mind (Jack and Ralph) are in direct opposition to one another. Ralph recognizes the need to mature quickly, and Jack just wants be wild, like boys tend to want to do at that age.

    To me, this is an excellent birdseye view into the difficulties of raising boys versus girls. Boys are much more impulse driven and without a set of rules and someone in authority to enforce them, they will regress to their more debased instincts.

    I think the book is amazing and highly underrated in the literary world (although teachers love it)!

  • The Theory

    as far as “forced to read” books (not counting being able to pick from a book list), my favorite was To Kill A Mockingbird. I think i was the only kid in my class to enjoy that book.

  • Eric Olsen

    While perhaps not “terrifying” from an actual violence standpoint, I think the implications are very terrifying.

  • Dawn

    To Kill A Mockingbird was sad tale of great moral importance, but to me it was very specific to the time period when it was written. Lord of the Flies and its psychology aspects are virtually timeless.

  • The Theory

    Of course, little bums like me don’t care about “psychological aspects”… just entertainment value. :-P

    Seriously, though, you are right.

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    i am a little ashamed to say that i still have not read this one.

    i do own a french press tho… ;-)

  • http://www.makeyougohmm.com/ TDavid

    Book = good. Movie = bad. Sort of like Fahrenheit 451 in that aspect (not in plot of course).

  • The Theory

    *psh* who watches movies, anyway!?

  • http://shelly_me0.tripod.com/shelly shelly roberts

    In one way I did enjoy reading he Lord of the Flies. I thought it was pretty ironic that a it is just like today’s society. All the things that happened in the novel happen in real life everyday. People get killed, people die etc… It dealt with the flaws of humans ourselves and how in the end if you don’t have any higher authority power or someone to set the rules down and make you obey them then devastating things will follow. I like that it showed that no matter how young or innocent you are that you are still capable of committing crimes just as well as the next person. I liked that it was very detailed and it was a good adventure book. On the other hand! [haha here I go] The book was a little slow starting off, and I gave up and didn’t give it the chance at first but still it wasn’t the most exciting book I have ever read before and I had a hard time tyring to figure out all the symbolic meanings of the things that was in it. I think taht the book could of been summed up in five or six chapters instead of the long, dragged out twelve. It was ok but not my usual type of book.

  • Jonathan

    I have to disagree with you on the story.. I thought it was very gripping.
    And about the hype about it being disturbing, re read the part about Simon being ripped apart. You can feel the animal like rage when you read it. You can probably relate.
    Golding uses children because they aren’t yet tempered by civilisation, they are kind’ve rough, uncut, what we are after you take away our ties and suits.

  • Daniel Alva

    I’m still in High School and we just finished the book. IT started slow but I quickly gained interest and it is just compelling to see how these boys deprived from society came to slowly progress to savage drones.. This book really hides alot of meanings which I missed.. Luckily the teacher pointed them out.

  • http://1212 yolanda

    I’ve got two words for this book, one for the beginning and one for the end –

    BEGINNING = SNOREFEST

    END = NAUESEATING

    Who wants to read about a bunch of kids turned mentally ill who run around and slaughter each other?not me!

  • liza

    i think this is not good novel to read in high school

  • vito

    It is the last book I’ve read and I really like it. I think the writer compares the society of the kids and the society of the grown-ups. there is a world war, grown-ups are killing each others as well as children are doing. the autor analyses the foolish reasons that make the children fight, but it is like he is analyses the resons of the war that involved their parents.
    there is evil that influences the children behaviour, some mean force that flutters in the air.

  • Angelica

    I’ve got two words for this book, one for the beginning and one for the end –

    BEGINNING = SNOREFEST

    END = NAUESEATING

    Who wants to read about a bunch of kids turned mentally ill who run around and slaughter each other?not me!

    Okay to start with Yolanda its not just about boys killing each other, its about politics, religion, the defects of human nature and so much more and if i, a 14 year old can grasp that, maybe you should too.
    Oh and by the way they dont slaughter each other, they only slaughter 1 of them, the other 2 got off easy i say compared to Simon.
    And okay, maybe the beginning wasnt great but if you just come on blogs to diss a book you hate maybe you should find something you like..
    I mean, maybe lord of the flies is a little..”developed” for your mind..

  • http://www.myspace.com/ny_met_fan Rich

    I think the above comment may be a personal attack but I can’t say that Yolanda didn’t have it coming to her. I thought the book was psychologically terifying. And yes Golding himself stated that it is a reflection of all society and not just how children act. He said the ending was irony because the adult that rescues Ralph in a sense is waiting for rescue as well as he is on a naval ship in the middle of a war.

    What I would like to know, is what happens to Jack? He was instrumental in two kids murders. Do they say boys will be boys and pat him on the head, fit him for a straight jacket, or does he go to a sort of juvie. The author leaves that to the reader to decide, my only conclusion is that Jack would be able to continue to intimidate the other boys into finishing the job on Ralph for fear he would get them all in trouble. There was something very telling on how he decided not to speak up when Ralph named himself leader to the adult.

  • Rafay

    I too want to know what happened to Jack?

  • alex charlee and laura

    well… erm it is rather boring but as wer had to study it…. it was better than Macbeth and that we thought it would be!!! :D:DD:D:D

  • good book

    i think this is one of the most power books i have ever read.

    i finished in a week because my teacher required us to. i hate it when ur teacher gives u little time to finish a book.

  • http://whattttt?? alysha

    what a dumb book. i havnt read one sentence and now i have a fat essay to do. HOW FREAKING GAY.

  • Shelby

    I thought the book was challenge to get through. I didn’t like the plot much. It was too unrealistic. I didnt like author’s writing style either. I found it to be too detailed.

    I did think it was a nice change from the other typical books you read though.

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