Friday, June 11, 2010

Lord Of The Flies

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

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Today's installment of Rabid Reading was inspired by a tale called The Hunger Games. When I finished this Hunger Games, I thought to myself, "This is a very thought provoking book.  A book that makes one consider the instincts of the human race - especially when certain members of the human race are in a position of power."

I really did think that.  Word-fer-word, complete with the dash.  Then I thought, "This book totally reminds me of Lord of the Flies for some reason.  I must find that reason." Having read this Lord of the Flies wonder something like 20 years ago, I wasn't sure and felt a refresher read was in order. Did I really just say I did something 20 years ago?  I really hate it when I do that for it makes me sound so old 'n stuff.

Reading this particular book is a bonus because Lord of the Flies is on the Lost Book List. I'm all about efficiency.  Do you see me kill two flies with one pig?  I've read the book to quench a curriosity and I'm reading it to gore a notch on the Lost book list.

Enough of me tooting my own efficiency conch, let's get on the book report, shall we?

If you've read Lord of the Flies, raise your hand (then leave a comment.)  If you haven't read Lord of the Flies, get out there and find yourself a copy (then leave a comment.)  It's a brilliant collection of words and ideas - and I don't just throw that word "brilliant" about like it's free.

First and foremost, let me introduce you to the author.  His name is William Golding and is not to be confused with William Goldman. The Man of Gold wrote The Princess Bride, whereas the Ing of Gold penned Lord of the Flies.  Got that?  Good.

Ladies and Gentleman, this is William Golding:

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Doesn't he have a fantastic face?  That is a fantastic face.  Sir William Golding (a knight, none-the-less) was born in 1911 in Cornwall, UK and died June 19, 1993.  Sir Golding studied Natural Sciences at Oxford University for a couple of years then switched to English Literature.  Golding began his career by writing poems and was published with the help of an anthropologist friend (the anthropologist friend is an important fact, by the way.)

William Golding, an animal rights activist, is also a Christian and aficionado of Greek mythology.  He served as a commanding officer of the Royal Navy during World War II, who's participation included the tanking of Germany's Bismarck and  the invasion of Normandy.

As a side note, the 66th anniversary of D-Day was a June 6, 2010 (get it?  66 years on 6/6?)  The Big Picture posted some great photos here.

Now that you've met the author and his background, please allow me to share my Rabid Analysis.  Lord of the Flies is a story of boys, aged 6 through 12, who were stranded on an uninhabited island.  No adults are present during their adventure.

One boy, Ralph, instinctually takes control of the situation by establishing order with a conch.  Whoever is holding the conch will be able to speak and receive the attention of the other boys.  Ralph also secures a plan for rescue by building a smoke signal fire at the highest point on the island.  He then assigns each boy a shift for keeping the fire alive.

Other characters include: spectacle-wearing Piggy, who's glasses are the only means for fire starting, twins Samneric (Sam and Eric), insightfully good Simon and evil Roger.  Last but not least on our list of characters, is Jack.

After Ralph establishes order with the conch and the fire, Jack rebels.  Jack would rather hunt than keep some silly smoke signal sailing.  He establishes a barbaric following and proceeds to entice others with the flesh of his freshly slaughtered pig.  One by one, the boys wander on over to Jack's side -  the symbolic dark side - until Piggy and Ralph are the only ones left.  Many are killed along the way.

I found that the act of war was a major theme in this book.  Remember when books had themes?  Like, long, long, ago?  When was the last time you read a contemporary with themes and symbols and other such luxuries?

It seems the author is trying to portray war as an innate human characteristic; that squabbling over trivialities will inevitably lead to a war on one scale or another.  As I watch my precious Yahoos fight viciously over who gets the blue bowl, or who gets to brush their teeth first, I mostly believe that Golding is right.  People are territorial animals, easily offended, who defend their positions and eventually go on the offensive themselves.  As I look through various relationships in my past, both family and friends, I can name many times where this cycle has repeated itself.

To drive this people-are-warriors point even deeper, Golding ended the story with a rescue.  The boys were smack-dab in the middle of their own little war (chasing, killing, etc) when they stumble upon, and are rescued by, a naval officer.  Ironically, that naval officer was smack-dab in the middle of a war himself.

Another theme, illustrated so clever 'n symbolic, is the existence of "good and evil" within each of us.  I think Golding was trying to say that when left to our devices, we inevitably separate ourselves into the "good" and the "evil."  Each of us is capable of taking authority and turning it sour.  Each of us is wicked enough to kill our friends and neighbors.  Each of us can arrogantly justify our way out of doing or being good.

After Jack and his boys kill their first pig - a sow with piglets - they cut off its head and stick it on a spear as an offering to whatever beast might be residing on the island.  Golding calls this offering the "Lord of the Flies."  Interestingly enough, this term, "Lord of the Flies," is a direct reference to  Beelzebub, which is the Hebrew name for one of the seven princes of hell.  (Is Hell capitalized? Did you know this Hell had seven princes? I didn't!)

Translated literally, Beelzebub means "Lord of the Flies."  And as you all prolly know, Beelzebub is what the Christians call Satan.

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5 comments:

StupidBike said...

mmmm Bacon

Jessica said...

I love this book. It's one of my favorites. In fact, I think this post has prompted me to re-read as well.

And, if it makes you feel any better, I read it at least 15 years ago. Three cheers for bein' old 'n' stuff.

wormL_h said...

your blog is amazing! and this was def. one of the most interesting posts :)

Makell said...

I remember reading this book in school and all I remembered about it was the dark fight for survival. I didn't like it much back then. I should re-read it now, because the majority of the books I didn't like then, I find terribly interesting now! Even Star WArs -hated it when I was little. LOVE it now - it's the whole good vs evil/ choices part of it. I'll have to give this one another shot.:)
btw - I love that you do bookreports still! I'm reading FREAKONOMICS.....have you read that? I'm an econ major and sometimes I find the boring quite delightful. But this book is pretty thought provoking...

tom lindsey said...

To whom are you going to turn for rescue? Think friends have the answers? How about mom and dad? Your government? Religion? God?

Nope. Life is short, brutal, and lonely. Do your best. Don't expect to be rescued.

btw-- I am available for children's parties