Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Yes, Golding's Lord of the Flies is a classic.  (They don't give away Nobel Prizes in Literature for nothing.)  Yes, I read it in high school.  No, I had actually forgotten the details of the ending.  But after recently finishing Brave New World, this seemed like a good choice for the next book.  (I also considered 1984 but I have read that within the last year or so.)

I've always said that anyone who believes that humans are inherently good has never seen children play.  A six year old would just as soon give you a hug as poke you in the eye with a sharp stick for a tootsie roll found in a puddle. Golding seems to be coming from the same place.

There's no sense in rehashing the plot because most everyone is familiar with the story.  What was interesting about this audio book is that it was narrated by the author himself.  What he lacks as a voice actor he made up for with brief prologue and epilogue that shared insight into the novel.

The idea for the story arc came from two distinct boyhood visions of Golding's.  The first, a wonderfully happy boy in love with the idea of being marooned on a desert island.  The second, a boy weeping for his loss of innocence.  Golding says that the most important message within this arc, is an exchange between Jack, the choir boy turned hunter chieftan, and Piggy, the pudgy voice of reason.  Jack rejects the rules, old and new, to which Ralph, their chief, attempts to hold them. Piggy replies that "they're the only thing we've got."  And that's simply Golding's point - it's this rule of law that we need to prevent a fall into chaos.

Golding also assures feminists that his choice of boys only was made for very good reasons.  First, he wasn't a girl growing up and therefore had no personal experiences to draw upon.  Second, he wanted to avoid the inevitable issue of sex.  More importantly, he doesn't believe an island full of girls would fracture in the same manner as boys, if at all.

That's all.  A worthy read.  A classic that's perfect for all young people.

"Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of a true, wise friend called Piggy."

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