February 10, 2013

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

I've put off reading this book for awhile.  No reason really, I had heard good things about it, that it was full of symbolism, etc.  So now, I've finally gotten around to reading it and while I do admit it was chock full of symbolism, I didn't find it particularly engrossing and even a bit dull.

After a wreck, a group of boys twelve years and younger are stranded on an island.  From the first they are eager to make their own society without the yoke of adults while still secretly yearning to be rescued.  A boy named Ralph is made head of this society, with Jack, a leader of a choir group turned hunters as his somewhat second in command.  He also has a somewhat adviser dubbed Piggy who owns a pair of glasses that is the main source for creating fire.  As the boys live on the island their society starts to deteriorate and fears make the boys do things that no one would have ever thought them capable.

Ralph is a weird leader for the group.  He seems, in the beginning, to be more along the same lines of personality as Jack.  A bully in a way, but really just a normal boy otherwise.  Piggy is the typical picked on kid, who has aspects of him that are important to share but are ignored by society based on superficial reasoning.  And Jack, well he's the type that's filling up our prisons or operating under camouflage as a socio-path in the normal world.  It's just in this world he is allowed to have the savagery come out.  Ralph's experience with leading causes him to miss the socio-pathic role, but he could have come very close if he had made a few decisions in a different way.  And then there's Simon, who's supposed to be the enigma of the group, but who's really just a sick little boy that is looked at differently because of his issues.

Golding uses this book to show a number of things.  The bleakness in society, the potential for violence in anyone, and that without consequences to rules, society could fall apart quite easily.  But there were a couple things I didn't understand.  For one, I never really realized why it was all boys that were stranded on the island, especially since they weren't all traveling as part of the group like the choir was.  Why did they go to savagery so quickly?  Especially when you consider the amount of younger kids.  And what about their feelings of home and wanting to get back there?  Surely after a week or so the fun of playing on their own island would have abated and a depression would have set in.  And that just seems unaccounted for.  While I thought Golding made some good points about society and how it works, I just think it could have been fleshed out more.

And the writing itself.  For all the violence and gore, I found it dull.  Just the style was hard to follow because of the way it jumped about.  And while part of that can be attributed to following the actions of young boys, it was just jarring to read and made it easy to lose focus.  And I know this book could actually be geared to middle school and high school aged children but I wonder if the majority have the ability to really get at all the symbolism in this book or if they'll be so distracted by the gore that it'll be missed.  Certainly there are some very intelligent kids out there that will get it, but not everyone is like that.  Heck, I'm an adult and I probably didn't catch half of what Golding put in there.

There are some lessons in here, but it just wasn't the right platform for me.  I didn't like Golding's writing style and it caused me to hurry through a book that should have time spent on it to get at the detail.

Lord of the Flies
Copyright 1954
182 pages

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