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Dated a little, but still a shocking novel about morals and society
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
Member Name: cha97mw
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
Date: 15/12/12, updated on 24/10/13 (59 review reads)
Advantages: a good old fashioned adventure story, with a strong plot.
Disadvantages: a bit dated, and I felt some of the children should have been developed more as characters
I was familiar with the plot to the story as I have seen a film adaptation probably about 20 years ago now, but I have only recently got round to reading the novel. The copy I picked up was from the library, and the cover on this is really dated. The title is written in a typed font designed to look a bit like Italic handwriting. There is then a series of swirls in red and brown that look like they have been done with fingers, which I interpret to be the stripes of paint worn by some of the children in the novel.
The plot to this is still highly relevant today, although I do feel that what dates this novel is the way that the children talk to each other, and also the names of some of the children are not common names nowadays, so there is a bit of an old fashioned feel to it. Children today also have the influence of technology, and are unlikely to have the type of books as reference material to read as the main character Ralph in the novel.
The plot is quick to start. After a plane crash, a group of boys aged between 6 and about 12 find themselves alone on a deserted island. There is no indication where this island is, but it is surrounded by sea, and has a fairly tropical climate, with reference to coral reefs visible from the mountains on the island. The island seems a place to explore, with dense forest areas and mountains, with strange fruits.
In the absence of any adult, a boy called Ralph takes charge, calling the boys to order with a blast on a conch shell he found in the water. He is advised by one of the other boys, we only ever get to know as Piggy (because he is large) that they need to try and establish some order until the adults come. Together they set about building shelter, finding food and making a fire to act as a signal for any passing ships so they can be rescued.
There is tension in the group from the start, as early on they realise that there are dangers about if they don't try and take care of themselves. What starts off as a bit of an adventure becomes desperation. One of the older boys, Jack, becomes obsessed with trying to hunt wild pig so that they have food, and this causes great conflict between the group as they neglect the fire and the other needs that they have in the thrill of the hunt. Ralph sees it as some of the boys are just playing, and they need to focus if they will ever be rescued.
There is a sense of time passing, and as the boys become more matted with dirt, and weary from eating mainly fruit, a savageness begins to creep into some of their attitudes. The island becomes a very dangerous place to be.
I don't want to say any more about the plot as I think it would then spoil others enjoyment of the story. This is quite a short book by modern standards, at only 225 pages long, but there is easily as much packed into this story as any modern adventure. While I was initially aware of the old fashioned aspect of this, as the story progresses, you forget that these are children in the 50s with stiff school uniforms and stiff upper lips, and you concentrate on the adventure in the forest. At first this is a bit of a game for them, but as time progresses, there becomes an eery desperation for these children, and a horror at how feral they start to become when left with no adult supervision. The lack of morals shown by one or two children starts to become almost a pack mentality like wild animals. Its hard to imagine modern children being as resourceful at finding food and creating fire.
The author chooses to only develop some characters fully, while other children are little characters in the background who you don't get to know at all. The focus is mainly on the older children who are taking on the adult roles in this society that is forming. Sometimes names were mentioned, and I had a job thinking to myself who that person was in the plot as it didn't feel that clear to me. I don't know if this was mimmicking the confusion of the children living in this isolated place away from their families.
I found quiet a lot of the behaviour especially the bullying of the fat boy, Piggy, very hard to read. I just wanted one character to stand up and say, come on, that is enough, but this would have not fit so neatly in the story.
This is a novel I am glad I made the time to read. I think it is the sort of book I would read only once, but it was a worthwhile use of my time, and left me quite contemplative after I had finished it. It is hard going at points compared to modern fiction as the author uses a wide vocabulary, some of which is not common place today, so I had to think as I read sometimes to work out what he was trying to say. I feel the story would still engage readers now, but some of it is unfortunately starting to date. Not bad for a book that was written nearly 60 years ago though.
Summary: A story that is still relevant today, though a bit dated in its presentation.