Monday, May 11, 2009

24. Lord of the Flies – William Golding

History: Published in 1954, Lord of the Flies was Golding's first novel, and although it was not a great success at the time it soon went on to become a bestseller, and by the early 1960s was required reading in many schools and colleges. the main theme is the conflicting impulses towards civilization (live by rules, peacefully and in harmony), and towards the will to power. Other themes include the tension between groupthink and individuality, between rational and emotional reactions, and between morality and immorality. How these play out, and how different people feel the influences of these, forms a major subtext of the story
Plot: The story itself takes place on an isolated island. A plane has crashed, and it transpires that there are no adult survivors. Ralph, one of the older boys, initiates the island's first assembly using a conch shell, where all of the survivors are revealed to be male children, none seemingly over the age of thirteen: "biguns" (a few older boys) and "littluns" (several younger boys). A brief election is held among the children and Ralph is voted chief (losing only the votes of Jack's loyal fellow choirboys) and he calls everyone together to work toward two common goals, the first being to have fun and the second to be rescued by creating a constant fire signal. For a time the boys work together towards building shelters, gathering food and water, and keeping the fire going. The choirboys then create their own goal, to become the hunters of the local animals, led by Jack. The tribe becomes savage, gradually becomes more animalistic, applying face paint from coloured clay. They attack a boy that wanders into their midst after they have killed a pig, and they think he is a beast and kill him. Then they chase down Ralph and the other boys, killing one and hunting Ralph. Ralph sets fire to a structure on the island as he is trying to hide, and the fire is seen by the coast guard, who is oblivious to what has happened on the island.
Review: If the description of the forest, the lagoon and the sea are natural & free-flowing, the description of the violence and the moral disintegration is depraving and disturbing. I would attribute the deep impact that this novel creates to the fact that the protagonists are children of age 12 and below. A set of adults performing these heinous crimes would not have created such a ripple among the readers. Choosing children to highlight the darkness that lies within each other is a class act by the author. This novel is a truly amazing psychological journey into regions hitherto unexplored revealing the true colors of human nature. It goes on to show that every human has grey areas that could get transformed into unimaginable blackness/darkness at any point of time.
Opening Line: The boy with fair hair lowered him down the last few feet of rock and began to pick his way toward the lagoon.
Closing Line: He turned away to give them time to pull themselves together; and waited, allowing his eyes to rest on the trim cruiser in the distance
Quotes: "[The hunters' thoughts were] crowded with memories...of the knowledge... that they had outwitted a living thing, imposed their will upon it, taken away its life like a long satisfying drink."
Rating: Okay

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