A bunch of schoolboys find themselves stranded on a desert island. What could possibly go wrong? The answer, as anyone who has read William Golding’s Lord of the Flies will testify, is plenty.
While the boys initially form a harmonious community, greed and a desire for power amongst one of their number quickly causes a division on the island. With this parting of the ways marking the start of many of the boys’ descent into savagery, the story examines the madness that the fundamental instinct of survival can potentially drive human beings to. With the split on the island seeing a society of self-preservation superseding one of harmony and community, the story prompts us to consider our own approach to life and which side of the island our behaviour would be most likely to place us on.
Although most of us do not live on desert islands, we all must go out into the society we exist within and make our attempts to survive. Along this journey we will encounter opportunities to gain power at the expense of others. While our society may not necessarily tell us there is anything wrong with this, the fact remains that personal gain in one instance may directly instigate loss in another. Knowledge of this gives this us the opportunity to either take a step back and re-evaluate our decisions, or to simply say ‘so what’ and continue to make self-serving choices. Lord of the Flies is as disturbing a reminder as any in literature of the ills of choosing self-preservation over community. The horrors that unfold as a result of some its characters choices are, if nothing else, a call to readers everywhere to ensure that, when they put the book down and continue with their lives, they ensure they remain on the right side of the island.
Rating 5/5 William Golding was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983 and on this evidence, it is easy to see why. A masterfully paced story with dialogue that seeps with tension, Lord of the Flies is a novel that manages to be both profound and primal.