Lord of the Flies
Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
This classic novel, originally published in 1954, chronicles the experiences of a group of boys who survive a shipwreck and find themselves stranded without adult supervision on a nameless, deserted island. These post-World War II, post British colonialism, boarding school boys soon find that building an existence from scratch is not as romantic nor enjoyable as they had previously envisioned. The social structures and peer competition that existed prior to their plight only duplicate and intensify when the boys are forced to fend for themselves. Ultimately their games turn destructive and deadly, and only the arrival of a naval officer investigating a large island fire saves some boys from certain death.
Taken from the Hebrew Ba’alzevuv (Beelzebub in Greek), the “lord of the flies” is a destructive devil that brings demoralization, decay, hysteria and panic to the boys’ camps. Unlike the spiritual devil of the ancient Hebrews, Golding’s Ba’alzevuv is a man-made demon arising from the depths of human psyche whose only purpose seems to be the survival of its boy-host. In this way Golding incorporates both the Freudian Id and Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” into a horror tale that forces any of us to reconsider our own moral motivations in more benign situations (Epstein, 1954).According to Golding, inThe Lord of the Flies he attempted “to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature. The moral is that the shape of society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system however apparently logical or respectable. The whole book is symbolic in nature except the rescue in the end where adult life appears, dignified and capable, but in reality enmeshed in the same evil as the symbolic life of the children on the island. The officer, having interrupted a man-hunt, prepares to take the children off the island in a cruiser which will presently be hunting its enemy in the same implacable way. And who will rescue the adult and his cruiser?”
This novel was slightly challenging for a group of medium-reading freshmen and sophomore boys, although they relished the moral discussions and relationships to contemporary socio-political issues. The Temperance and Prudence of Ralph, the Agape sacrifice of Simon, and the Fidelity of Piggy were considered in contrast to the selfish vices of Jack and his cronies. The group also learned to spot some literary allusions and symbolic foreshadowing. The boys had the opportunity to dissect their own fetal pigs in the biology lab at Bethel College, and were privileged with a private presentation by renowned anthropologist Carolyn Nordstrom, Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame, whose research documents contemporary war orphans who build communities that seem to contradict some of Golding’s premises about human nature. Our community service project took us outside on a frigid winter day in late December to assist the owners of a Christmas tree farm with some seasonal projects. These myriad unique experiences combined to show the boys more virtuous life options.