Edited by Nicola Presley Designed by James Colman ÂŠ William Golding Limited
Note From the Editor As the New Media Manager for William Golding Limited, I have always been struck by the responses from William Golding fans around the world on his most famous novel, Lord of the Flies. With the 60th anniversary of the publication of Lord of the Flies approaching, I began to wonder whether we could collate some of these responses into some sort of commemoration, in order to display the passion that the book elicits from its readers. This idea eventually grew into this wonderful ebook. Itâ€™s rather daunting to embark on a crowd-sourced project but I have been amazed by the brilliant and varied contributions we have received and am delighted to present them here. Very special thanks to James Colman, an extremely talented young designer, who designed and illustrated this book. Nicola Presley
William Golding Limited and the authorâ€™s family would like to thank all those who have contributed to this volume. Your help and enthusiasm are very much appreciated, and we hope all who read this volume will enjoy it and gain fresh insight.
“Introduction” • “Reading Lord of the Flies” • “Teaching Lord of the Flies” • “What does Lord of the Flies mean to me?” • “Visual Interpretations” • “Poetry”
Section 1 Introduction
Introduction By Judy Golding Daughter of William Golding
When I arrived to collect one of my sons from a birthday party, the host, unaware of my father’s identity, rolled his eyes: ‘It’s like something out of Lord of the Flies.’ This was not altogether true. The house wasn’t on fire, no one had died, and I doubt that there had been a grandstand rehearsal of some fundamental political concepts. Of course, to many people, Lord of the Flies simply means mayhem among children – and not much else. This is a pity. It’s a complex book, with complex characters, even if they are eleven years old or younger. It also has complex ideas, something that people understandably tend to put in the background. Before the mayhem, the boys on the island make a creditable stab at creating a fair and productive society, sharing out tasks. They develop a form of monitored public speech. They hold a democratic election and acknowledge that the winner of the election has authority over them. Many of them show a strong sense of justice and of responsibility. Of course it all goes to blazes (as my father would have said) because, as he also said, ‘the boys are suffering from the terrible disease of being human’. But the attempt is worth remembering. How did the book come about? One evening in 1951 my father had been reading to my brother and me – an adventure book, he says, about islands, possibly R M Ballantyne’s adventure story The Coral Island, which my father certainly read to us. Afterwards, exhausted (and perhaps slightly irritated), it struck him that real children would not behave like the ones in the books. He was confident that he knew about real children, not only from teaching and fatherhood, but also from having been a child himself. When he began writing it, I was seven and knew nothing of what was going on. My elder brother David was eleven, and had just started as a first-year at Bishop Wordsworth’s School, Salisbury, the boys’ school where my father was a member of staff. I have wondered if his occasional sightings of his small son, trying to avoid trouble in that threatening world, could have informed his sense of the struggles on the island. My father must have realised that his intervention would have made matters worse. He might as well have been miles away – essentially my brother was on his own. Like my brother at that time, Ralph is about eleven. Jack is the same or a little older. His voice hasn’t broken, and he seems not to fear the disappearance of that treble C sharp he boasts about. Many people have tried to identify the originals of these characters, and it is true – for example – that my father taught a pair of identical twins who were famously inseparable like Sam and Eric. He also taught a boy who had epilepsy, like Simon. But anyone who has tried to write a story knows that characters have to be imagined even if they are based on people you know. You don’t know the whole of them, and your imagination has to make them known to others. Lord of the Flies makes extensive use of The Coral Island. Ralph and Jack are names used in both books, to ironic effect in Lord of the Flies, since Ballantyne’s characters are straightforward British paragons, enthusiastically accepting their imperial role in educating and Christianising savages. In the drafts of Lord of the Flies, there are other references, notably a passage where Ralph overtly connects Simon with the cheery but plucky boy Peterkin from Ballantyne’s book.
Where did my father write the novel? When I was a child he went for long walks on his own, and used them to help him compose his novels. He put it down on paper in less than ideal conditions – in his journal for May 1974 he mentions ‘staff rooms, cathedral choir stalls and so on’. He doesn’t go on to mention lessons, but many pupils remember him setting them tasks (counting words on his pages, or reading passages to see what they thought, or even just reading other books), while he continued to write. The reference to cathedral choir stalls supports the legend that he drafted some of his first novel during the school’s annual Founder’s Day service in Salisbury Cathedral. He had impressive powers of concentration, and I don’t remember ever being told to be quiet because he was writing. He would have worked on the book at home – our chilly first-floor flat in an ugly Victorian house in Bourne Avenue, Salisbury. He also produced final revisions over the Christmas holidays of 1953-4, when we were all staying in my grandparents’ ancient house (his childhood home) on the Green in Marlborough. There must have been quite a racket, with all the family, including my brother and me and our cousin Lizzie. Maybe it helped. Do I like it? I know that every time I read it again I am amazed at my father’s skill and passion. But it is such a sad book, and going over the details of it – say, proof-reading the text for the e-book – I am confronted again and again by a painful wish for things to go all right this time, not to fall apart this time. I am also confronted, as I am sure my father was, by a despairing sense of how unfair it was that these children had their childhood swept away, leaving them unprotected on an alien shore. And the news is always full of events reminding us that it’s not just a story. It is often assumed that my father disliked or distrusted children. This was not true, quite the contrary. He viewed their vulnerability with something like terror, and their capacity for violence as a tragic reflection of their humanity. His distrust of adults was immense, stemming partly from his service in World War II, and partly from the wearying experience of living as an Englishman of the lower middle class. He was always rather obstreperous and (until 1954) largely unappreciated. He was subject to very conflicting impulses: on the one hand, he was terrified of transgressing social convention; on the other, he wanted to chuck a spanner in those very works. What did he think of his novel later? He told me once that he thought it was ‘pretty good, actually,’ one of the three best novels he had written. He said this defensively, as if I might have thought the book was unsubtle, or merely stated the obvious. I don’t believe either of those things – it seems to me a brilliant, perennially surprising, tragic, unbearable tale. But I think this shows his awareness that even by the time he said this – the late 1980s or 90s – the novel suffered from its own success. We can’t now recapture the shock it created in 1954. The novel itself has affected our world.
Design Inspirations By James Colman Designer of this ebook.
William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is one of the most powerful and thought provoking novels I have ever read. So, being given the chance to design the anniversary ebook was a great honour and a bit daunting too! As it is a globally recognised novel there were lots of research materials available to me on my journey of design. Despite the inspiration this provided me with, it also acted as a hindrance as it meant there were endless amounts of designs already out there – book covers to fill a library, drawings to fill a gallery – so coming up with a set of original ideas was going to be something of a tough challenge. Lord of the Flies is an iconic book with some great descriptive features ready to feed the imagination. This was something I really wanted to try and capture visually, in such a way so that newbie readers and life long fans of the book had something to relate to, without relying too much on the overused imagery of a pig’s head or a broken pair of glasses. This meant I had to think imaginatively, noticing descriptions in the book others may gloss over and use them to develop design features that enhance the ebook in the most effective way possible. William Golding’s recognisable writing style found in Lord of the Flies proved to be an exciting source to draw inspiration from. One of my main influences stemmed from the descriptions of colour and shadows used by Golding, painting a picture of the idyllic paradise the children found themselves in early on in the book. This immediately sparked my imagination of how I could represent imagery of ‘… peacock waters’ and ‘the stark colours of the morning … smothered in pearl’ for example, and I was enthusiastic to find a design approach that was effective and original. My design-based experience led me to consider drawing inspiration from the use of a current trend, Geometric Design. I knew the concept of using geometric shapes along with drawing inspiration from the novel for my colour selections, would represent the celebratory side of the ebook well. The famous cover designs by Neil Gower helped to inspire my colour selection. His beautifully designed covers for William Golding’s Centenary and 50th Anniversary edition of Lord of the Flies provided me with an insight into how a fellow designer turned words into accurate and effective visuals. His approach of simplicity immediately grabbed me. The strong shapes and bold colour use showed how the nature of the book could be represented in a unique and exciting way. It also allowed me to see how, despite all the propaganda of having to include a conch on every spare bit of page, originality can still be created. His designs were ones that I hadn’t seen anywhere before and that obviously meant something – either he had made a big mistake and not understood the book like others did or he had managed to come up with something great and genuinely unique. After finding out he had received Best Jacket Design at the British Book Design and Production Award for his efforts, I decided it was definitely the latter. As a way of hat-tipping this great designer I tried to follow in his footsteps by ensuring originality and use of brave colour choices throughout my design, particularly for the ebook’s cover. Golding’s detailed descriptions found within the novel went on to inspire me greatly for the illustrations I produced. I wanted to represent the raw rough-edged side of the novel, evoked by Golding when mainly describing the savage manners of the children and the transformations they undertook. Two descriptions of Jack that had a memorable impact were, ‘Jack planned his new face.
He made one cheek and one eye-socket white, then he rubbed red over the other half of his face and slashed a black bar of charcoal across from right ear to left jaw …’ and ‘Jack transferred the knife to his left hand and smudged blood over his forehead as he pushed down the plastered hair’. I reflected on descriptions such as these throughout the creative process for the illustrations. I used a fairly simple process of rough ink drawings that were then digitally edited; this worked well to create an up to date ‘rough-and-ready’ style and still built positive relationships between my designs and those used by Neil Gower. In order for my designs to work harmoniously I needed to find a way of connecting these two ends of the design spectrum. I was taken aback when inspiration for this came from an unexpected source whilst browsing the work of my favourite artists. The work of Pablo Picasso caught my eye, especially his contribution towards the art movement, Cubism. His cubist style through the use of colour and unperfected black edged shapes was really exciting to see as I could imagine how I could recreate this through my design in a digitally graphic approach. So, with haste I went on to develop my designs referring to his work when needed, and this led to my style of designs and final artwork being created. This project is one I have taken great joy in carrying out and have learnt a lot from. One thing I have learnt most though is that design inspiration can come from anywhere and as a designer it is important to allow yourself to explore, imagine and create in a way that suits you. As, no matter how long you sit in front of a computer screen, great design comes from those who immerse themselves most within design and life itself. Because as the narrator in Lord of the Flies states, ‘The greatest ideas are the simplest.’
Section 2 Reading Lord of the Flies
On re-reading William Golding’s Lord of the Flies By Nicola Presley New Media Manager for William Golding Limited
I, like so many of you reading this, had to read Lord of the Flies at school. I loved the majority of my English lessons and had a truly superb English teacher, who is largely responsible for the fact that I’m now studying for a doctorate in English Literature. However, I was always a little suspicious of set texts and disliked the way we would waste entire lessons reading out the text with each of us taking a part (unless I had a really big role, in which case I loved it). Hearing some of the greatest works in English literature read in faltering (sometimes incoherent) tones by bored teenagers who were more concerned with other matters was depressing and uninspiring. The good students read the book themselves at home so it was an entirely pointless exercise. Lord of the Flies was different to many of the other set texts on the English curriculum. For one thing, it was far more modern – forty years old when I was studying English – and it seemed so much more relevant to us as young people than many other texts. It contained at least one swear word – ‘bollocks’ – which was a source of amusement and the murders of Simon and Piggy were shocking and violent. I remember that even the students who didn’t excel at English and barely had any involvement in the class seemed genuinely fascinated by this story of societal breakdown and children’s descent into violence. This is, of course, the enduring power of this book: its ability to reach out and grab the reader and disrupt our pre-conceived notions of childhood innocence. I read and studied Lord of the Flies at the age of fourteen and regularly cited it as one of my favourite books. Throughout my 20s, I taught the book in various guises – tutor and youth worker – and saw that it still struck resonantly with young people but I didn’t actually re-read it. I concentrated on particular passages either for answering essay questions or to provide an example of disintegrating behaviour. So, at the age of thirty, I undertook to read Lord of the Flies again. I wondered whether studying and teaching the book over the years had diminished its achievement. The main narrative is so familiar to those who haven’t even read the book before; Lord of the Flies has influenced so many aspects of popular culture, for example, the television series Lost and Survivor, episodes of The Simpsons and South Park and the title is now a synonym for survival situations and savage behaviour. Would a second reading elicit literary surprises? Would I simply read in anticipation of key famous events such as the finding of the conch, the encounter with the beast, the murder of Piggy? Having completed my reading, I can answer with a definitive ‘yes’ to my first question. Lord of the Flies is still an immense literary achievement and the narrative so perfectly paced from start to finish. Golding creates a number of characters, similar in age and background, but manages to give each boy their own distinct personality (perhaps with the exception of Sam and Eric, but really they are classed as one anyway). The character that is perhaps most interesting is Roger, who is truly menacing even before the group splits into two. He watches the ‘littluns’ play in the sea and begins throwing stones at one of them, although he aims to miss. Golding writes, ‘There was a space around Henry, perhaps six yards in diameter in which [Roger] dare not throw. Here, invisible and strong, was the taboo of the old life. Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and the policemen and the law. Roger’s arm was conditioned by a civilisation that knew nothing of him and was in ruins’. Roger shows here that, although he is still constrained by society’s rules, he wishes to cause harm to others, including those he can dominate by size. Roger eventually pushes the stone that will kill Piggy.
When the boys are rescued, I wondered what sort of person Roger would become, as he is the only boy amongst the survivors to deliberately commit murder. Although most of the boys are involved in the slaughter of Simon, they mistake him for the ‘beast’ in the dark and excitement of the bonfire. Would Roger be able to forget his atrocious act? Had he strayed so far beyond acceptable and lawful behaviour that it would be impossible to exist in ‘decent’ society? Was he inherently evil? These are questions that the reader cannot answer but show the incredible vividness and believability of Golding’s characters. To answer my second question, I suppose I did read the novel in anticipation of the key events. This is surely inevitable when re-reading any novel, particularly such a well-known one. However, because I did know what was coming next in the novel, I was able to appreciate the clues placed by Golding to future events and the subtleties of the changing nature of some of the boys. For instance, the pretend attack on Robert in Chapter Seven when he acts like a pig and the other boys circle around him prefigure the attack on Simon. When Robert, rubbing his sore ‘rump’ reminds the boys they need to find a real pig to kill, Jack jokingly suggests they ‘use a littlun’ (127). In the same incident, Roger is ‘fighting to get close’ to Robert the ‘pig’ (126). The concluding part of the novel – Jack and the savages chasing Ralph after smoking him out of the undergrowth – loses none of its intensity when the outcome is known. To say I ‘devoured’ this part of the book is horribly clichéd and overused but I read these final nine pages at a blistering pace. And I know the end! There is something quite extraordinary in the pacing of this last chapter with long descriptive paragraphs detailing Ralph’s predicament, disrupted by short, stand-alone sentences for Ralph’s thoughts: ‘Think’. ‘Hide then’. The final ‘reveal’ of Jack as ‘a little boy who wore the remains of an extraordinary black cap on his red hair, and who carried the remains of a pair of spectacles at his waist’ jolts the reader back into reality; the horrors on the island have been committed by children. Only the arrival of an adult can provide this perspective. I’ve read some reviews on the internet – prompted by the poor film adaptation in 1990 – that say Golding’s novel no longer has the power to shock because of various tragedies that have occurred. Incidents such as school massacres and gang killings have shown that children and young people are capable of murdering each other. However, regardless of events that occur in our ‘real world’, Golding’s novel has not lost any of its tragic beauty and remains a haunting allegory.
What Lord of the Flies means to me By Bruce Peabody Professor of Political Science at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, New Jersey.
My ‘encounters’ with Lord of the Flies – my relationship with the book has been sufficiently intimate that it deserves some personification – are captured by three more or less distinct phases. Each period produced its own forms of self-awareness, its wider insights, and its vivid emotions, especially numerous variants of terror. My first experience with Golding’s work came at the unripe age of nine or ten. I was home from school, sick. My brother, six years older, found Peter Brook’s film adaptation on our decidedly non-flatscreen TV. For the next hour and a half I was spellbound, and ultimately left feeling a little queasy. And it wasn’t just the flu. My lingering apprehension came, I think, from a fear of the uncanny. Golding’s world was at once wholly alien (I had never been stranded on an island or worshipped a sow’s head) and achingly familiar (most schoolchildren develop a quick appreciation for how quickly group dynamics can turn sour and hostile). Some of this disquieting combination of recognition and estrangement came from Brook’s artistry. The amateur actors in the film resembled many of my peers, but they wore odd capes, their speech was stilted, they moved amidst the screeches of exotic birds. But most of my discomfort ultimately flowed from Golding’s pen. His ahistorical narration took my feet off the ground, and his unflinching social observations slammed me back to earth. The events in Flies are dateless. The characters are mostly stripped of place, culture, and even clothing. But these disorienting features were countered by my awareness that I’d seen these boys before – sometimes on the playground and sometimes as adults jockeying for social position, or hard faces on the nightly news. Frankly, some of my uncanny feeling probably came from being sick. In any event, my initial sensations and images from the film stayed with me and flavoured my subsequent explorations of the novel. But when I picked up the book in high school, this continued sense of unease became layered with a new emotion – a kind of smugness that came from understanding, accepting, and even identifying with Golding’s portrait of human behavior and psychology. Teachers and parents make adolescents read many works of fiction. These books are meant to connect with their young readers, offering engaging characters or evocative experiences that evoke sympathy, elicit excitement, and perhaps make the students forget they are actually learning something.
But teenagers, of course, are chirpy and truculent and skeptical, and I was no exception. Before I would allow a book to get under my skin, it had to show me its authenticity. It had to be sufficiently powerful that I would give it license to think and speak for me. Lord of the Flies passed this test with its characters, and not through the realism of its settings or any parallel between Ralph’s life and my own. Again: neither I nor my suburban peers had to hunt for our breakfasts with pointed sticks. But Golding claimed me because he refused to talk down. The marooned children in Flies struck me as clever and adaptive while still being kids. Their emotional life was plausible. At several points, Ralph and Jack share in a feeling of towering importance and limitless possibility that sum up an important portion of the young adult’s mental landscape. For me, just as effective as Golding’s sympathetic depiction of children, was his subtle unmasking of adults. The boys end up stuck on their island not through any fault of their own, but because their guardians, their parents, their leaders – those who should know better – start an atomic war. Even the book’s single, fleeting encounter with a living adult – the naval officer who rescues the children at novel’s end – reveals his (but not Golding’s) naiveté. Oblivious to the lethal mob behind Ralph, he smiles and chats, asking if the children have been enjoying ‘fun and games.’ The man’s authority is diminished just a bit when Ralph responds to the officer’s facetious question (‘Any dead bodies?’) by soberly informing him that there were ‘Only two.’ Golding’s success with authenticity meant that I accepted much of the rest of his ruptured psychic terrain. Among other lessons, I gleaned the following: Although secretly we craved their comfort (‘At home there was always a grownup. Please, sir; please, miss; and then you got an answer. How I wish!’), adults would not always be around to save us. And they had no monopoly on wisdom when they did appear. A more unwelcome and damning insight was that ‘the young’ were no better. Ralph’s example is as good as we get, but he is vain, selfish, and cruel. There is, as the author puts it, a ‘darkness of man’s heart.’ We need to make our own maps to find the way out. Thirty years have passed since my teenage angst first navigated Golding’s unsafe harbour. Now I am an adult, a teacher, and a parent, and I experience Lord of the Flies in a third way. Today, the novel fills me with appreciation for its denseness and relevance. The book is easy to read, demanding to interpret, and upsettingly applicable. As a political scientist these days, I tend to look at the book as, well, a political novel. After all, Golding’s characters explicitly invite us to think about ‘what makes things break up like they do?’ Political philosophy provides one set of responses to this query. Indeed, some of this work seems to spring straight from the earth of Golding’s island. When I teach Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan, for example, Lord of the Flies is always close at hand. For Hobbes, the insecurity and fear of humans bring them into a ‘war of all against all’ – a cataclysm that can only be avoided by unified, ‘sovereign’ rule. It is not a distant journey from Hobbes’s world of atomistic conflict to Golding’s. Both thinkers even seem to accept that divided sovereignty is often no power at all. Lord of the Flies, therefore, gives me many opportunities to remind my students of the immediacy and emotional toll of political problems. That’s great as far as it goes, but it doesn’t do much to explain the book’s wider popularity. ‘Big data’ tools tell us that despite the blockbuster success of J. R. R. Tolkien’s books and Peter Jackson’s films, ‘Lord of the Flies’ remains more heavily referenced in published books than Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
So what explains this ongoing appeal? I think that one answer is that the novel captures our insecurities about the future. In particular Lord of the Flies surfaces deep doubts about whether our character, morals, and political planning can keep pace with the explosive social and technological changes we take for granted as residents of the twenty first century. As the biologist E.O. Wilson has observed, we ‘exist in a bizarre combination of Stone Age emotions, medieval beliefs [and institutions to match], and god-like technology.’ This ‘Star Wars civilization’ as he calls it, is disharmonious and dangerous. All of Wilson’s forces churn in Golding’s novel. Our failed stewardship of technology is present at the very outset, in the form of the advanced weaponry that drives the schoolboys from home and wages war all around the island. The children’s homespun inventions are cruder than air ships and atom bombs, but no less important for deciding their future. For example, they build a bonfire to attract a passing ship. ‘The fire’s the most important thing on the island’ Ralph tells us. But the fire goes out as they succumb to Wilson’s primordial impulses and ‘medieval beliefs.’ The children become distracted from rescue first by instant pleasures (hunting, ‘feasts,’ and ‘fun’) and eventually by the created terror of the Lord of the Flies itself. Ralph and Piggy’s insistence of the ‘scientific’ order of the world is ultimately trumped by a competing paradigm: the world is filled with ‘ghosts’ including the Beast. This imagined danger, arising from the boy’s fright, ignorance, and wish to order their world, contributes not only to the neglect of the fire, but, later, to the frenzied murder of Simon and the undoing of Ralph’s reign (since Jack offers a superior claim to rule through his status as a hunter). All of this seems to leave the status of intelligent human planning in some jeopardy by book’s end. In Lord of the Flies, the emotions and beliefs that fill up our heads are powerful, forbidding, and often deadly. Tim Flannery, the Australian climatologist has cautioned that it is not our ‘technology, but what we believe, that will determine our fate’ as a species. So is the faithful reader of Lord of the Flies an inveterate pessimist about our future? I think not. When I read Golding’s novel, I visit the island, experience Ralph’s hardships, and cringe with and at Piggy. But I also have a conversation with William Golding. I imagine that Golding wrote his book to speak to readers like me, and to warn us and teach us and urge us to plot our future course with humanism and care. More than three decades after first encountering Lord of the Flies, the novel retains an almost invasive personal hold. The book continues to distress me. But it also exhorts me: through our capacity for sympathy, our inventiveness, and our stories, we can feel the urgency of our times and we can guide our fickle wills, channel our fate, and even mend our dark hearts.
Lord of the Flies–Fact or Fiction? By Eleanor Learmonth Contributor
Like countless other readers around the globe, Lord of the Flies stayed lurking in my head long after I closed the back cover. It raised issues, stirred up frightening, half-forgotten memories and prompted questions. In my case, one thought kept gathering strength in my imagination: What if it really happened? Would boys, or even adults, actually behave like that? Even the question seemed disturbing. Surely, I thought, people would realise at some fundamental level that such appalling and abusive behaviour was ultimately going to be very destructive to the entire group, including themselves? Not to mention, they were going to have to ignore almost everything they had ever been taught, at home, at school and by society. After a few years of slowly contemplating this, rolling it around in my head like a little ember, I got a short but startling glimpse into group behaviour when caught in a Tokyo skyscraper during an earthquake. I watched as pandemonium erupted among the group of adults trapped on my floor – pushing, screaming, shouting and panic ensued. What I witnessed in those brief minutes was Nature giving Nurture a very sound thrashing. Not long after that dreadful experience, I decided to start researching how trapped, isolated groups of survivors actually behaved. At the beginning, my instinctive suspicion was that Lord of the Flies would be an exaggerated and accelerated version of what might occur in some groups. Five years later, together with my co-author Jenny Tabakoff, I was able to answer the question – How accurate was William Golding’s dystopia of betrayal, violence, fear and death? The answer: It was terrifyingly accurate. I had underestimated just how badly humans were capable of behaving when they felt the fetters of law and social restraint had vanished. In our book on the subject, No Mercy, we looked at stranded groups across the globe and across time, from a besieged city in Northern Spain (134BC), to miners trapped below the Atacama Desert in 2010. Some were trapped in a virtual Paradise, like the Bounty mutineers, while others suffered atrocious conditions stranded in the freezing hell of the Polar regions. But the outcomes were often remarkably similar and in many cases the process of social collapse closely mirrored the plot of Golding’s novel. Not only did Golding get the broad brushstrokes right, he even had the tiny details correct. He got the sequence of events right, and most frightening of all, he foresaw the human potential to seek out what psychologists have called ‘the dark beauty of violence.’ The scope of different factors that appear in Lord of the Flies and also real-life survivor situations is too vast to detail in a short essay. Instead I will focus on a few that were particularly unexpected and intriguing.
The first is the insidious, corrupting power of a uniform. In Lord of the Flies, Jack’s tribe of hunters are a tight and cohesive faction. At the beginning of the novel, the choir arrives at the beach meeting in their robes and caps. Seen in the distance through Ralph’s eyes they are a single, dark creature. Piggy feels intimidated by their ‘uniformed superiority’. Before long, Jack’s choir have abandoned their too-hot robes, but adopted a fresh uniform. They tie their hair back, dump their clothing, carry spears and eventually retreat behind the anonymity of painted faces. Not only does the identical appearance cement their sense of factional identity as hunters, it frees them from personal responsibility and shame. Jack’s tribe becomes increasingly cruel and threatening. In real life, an identical dynamic can occur. Factions are the biggest curse of survivor groups, and a uniformed faction is the most dangerous. Take the survivors of the Batavia, stranded on a string of tiny, coral-fringed islands off the coast of Western Australia in 1629 after the loss of their ship. For castaways, the conditions for the 208 men, women and children were relatively benign: the climate was warm, and they eventually found enough water and food. The survivors had tools, small boats, fishing nets, tents and their commander had sailed to Indonesia to fetch a rescue ship. Unfortunately a violent faction under the leadership of a Dutch apothecary named Jeronimus Cornelisz quickly seized control of the group. At first he consolidated his power by marooning or ‘disappearing’ any individuals who might oppose him, but once his control was established darker forces began to drive the violence. Cornelisz ended up with an elite band of enforcers to carry out his orders. One of the privileges of belonging to this faction was a uniform granted to them by Cornelisz. From the cargo washed ashore from the Batavia’s carcass, Cornelisz ordered that scavenged bolts of red wool be made into special cassocks for his strike force. These long robes were then decorated with rows of expensive gold lace. They were highly impractical for life on a hot, rocky island, but must have eventually struck terror into the hearts of the helpless victims. Dressed in their new outfits, the killers became increasingly bloodthirsty. Simple strandings (in locations where Cornelisz was pretty confident the survivors would die of dehydration) gave way to people being pushed out of boats, which escalated to victims being held down in shallow water to drown. Next the killers began to hack and stab the victims to death, with ever-increasing ferocity. While at first only the useless, sick or irritating were killed, soon individuals who had much to contribute to the overall survival of the group, such as the surgeon and fishermen, were also slaughtered. The castaways were especially petrified of one of the killers, a cabin servant called Jan Pelgrom. Much like Roger in Lord of the Flies, 18-year-old Pelgrom discovered a deep love of inflicting pain, and roamed around the main island calling out to all, ‘Who wants to be stabbed to death? I can do that very beautifully.’ At times he would beg Cornelisz to select someone for him to kill, claiming ‘he would rather do that than eat or drink.’ Finally, after months on the island, the bloodbath created its own problem. After marooning scores and murdering nearly 120 survivors, they were running out of victims. Days went by without any deaths and the uniformed killers grew restless. When they heard Cornelisz had selected a boy to sacrifice to their boredom, they debated at length who should be allowed the privilege of beheading
the young net-mender. Jan Pelgrom was particularly keen and made himself useful blindfolding the victim while Cornelisz chose the executioner. The group all laughed as one man lopped the boy’s head off with a sword, with the exception of Pelgrom who cried because he hadn’t been selected. Several weeks later, the Batavia’s commander sailed back in his rescue ship into a battle between Cornelisz’s faction and some of the remaining survivors who had previously been marooned. Expecting to find the castaways still alive, Commander Pelsaert was just as shocked as the naval officer at the end of Lord of the Flies by the depravity that had unfolded in just 101 days. It might have been a coral island, but it certainly hadn’t been a ‘Jolly good show. Like the Coral Island.’ Over 300 years later, in 1961, the director of the Lord of the Flies movie found himself in the grip of a similar problem. Peter Brook watched as the unity between his boy actors deteriorated and a climate of bullying and hostility began to take over. Much of the opprobrium was aimed at the actor who played Piggy (reflecting a perfect piece of casting). Brook discovered dressing the boys up in their warpaint seemed to be exacerbating the problem. ‘We had to cake them with mud and let them be savages by day,’ he wrote later in his autobiography, “and restore prep-school discipline by the shower and the scrubbing at night.” By the time the movie was finished, Brook had decided the only thing Golding had got wrong was the timeframe: he felt the entire catastrophe could occur in just a few days. Throughout our years of research, there was one kind of historical case that remained elusive. We really wanted to find an example where the survivors were exclusively children. Unfortunately, as children are always under the supervision of adults, we searched in vain trying to find a wrecked ship of children, or a group of children abandoned in some remote location. Finally we found what we wanted – a failed psychology experiment, conducted in rural America. By strange fate, it had been staged at the same time William Golding was writing Lord of the Flies on the other side of the Atlantic. I had never heard of the Robbers Cave Experiment, but the details were very oddly familiar. The experiment was conducted in 1954 on a group of 22 eleven-year-old boys by a team of psychologists headed by Muzafer and Carolyn Sherif. The boys were unaware of their status as white, above-average-IQ guinea pigs, and believed they were being sent to an ordinary summer camp in an abandoned scout camp deep in the Oklahoma woods. Before the experiment had even begun, Sherif had split the boys into two equal cohorts. Both thought they were the only group in the vicinity. The psychologists pretended to be janitors and minor camp staff and tried to fade into the background. They kept interaction with the boys to a bare minimum. Left to their own devices with cooked meals, a furnished hut and activities provided, the boys had a glorious time for the first week – playing, swimming and exploring. They developed their own internal hierarchies, made their own decisions and established their own group cultures. The ‘Eagles’ were strongly intolerant of homesickness, disapproved of swearing but considered that crying was OK if a boy was injured. They favoured certain games and always swam in the nude. Conversely, the ‘Rattlers’ set a high premium on toughness, looked down on crying even if hurt, and were enthusiastically pro-swearing. Weak, crying boys were shunned, and no-one swam nude. Both tribes developed their own shared language and nicknames, and their own ways to punish and problem-solve. They became territorial about the area they had explored.
After one week, Sherif allowed each group to hear the other off in the distance. As soon as this unsettling discovery had been made, both sets of boys became defensive and territorial. They made threatening remarks about the other group and expressed concerns about trespassing. When a staff member mentioned to the Eagles that the Rattlers wanted to challenge them to a baseball game, their immediate response was ‘We’ll challenge them first...they’ve got a nerve.’ The staff announced a four-day tournament of games and activities between the two groups. The winners were to be rewarded with a medal and pocket-knife each. Immediately, the boys’ social cohesion tightened, and they painted flags to represent their tribes. The boys still hadn’t even seen each other. At first contact, on the morning of a baseball game, the hostility was obvious. Insults soon flew through the air, starting with ‘Fatty’. On the first afternoon, after losing twice, the dejected Eagles secretly took down the Rattlers’ flag, burnt it and returned the charred remains to the flagpole as a provocation. On discovering this the following morning, the Rattlers were furious and a physical fight broke out. The staff was forced to intervene and separate the combatants. The boys were now screaming abuse at each other and the leader of the Eagles, codenamed Mason, was crying with rage. Late that night, the losing team (the Rattlers this time) put on commando-style face paint and attacked the Eagles as they slept in their cabin. Luckily the boys were so terrified they remained frozen and the Rattlers took out their aggression on their belongings – smashing, and stealing. They raced off into the darkness with a prize trophy – Mason’s jeans, which they quickly destroyed, but hung on a stick to parade the next day. The level of aggression escalated steadily over the next few days. Violence went from being spontaneous flare-ups to premeditated attacks. Day three of contact saw the boys arming themselves with baseball bats, sticks and rocks. They also began to manufacture and stockpile weapons in anticipation of the next round of fighting. One of the weapons they mass produced was socks stuffed with stones, certainly capable of causing a fatal injury. The violence riled the groups and even affected the internal structure. The Eagles had quickly dumped their peacetime leader in favour of the smaller but aggressive Mason. Boys who didn’t want to fight were berated as ‘yellow-bellies’ and threatened or ‘roughed-up’ by their own group. Eventually the Eagles won the tournament and the coveted prizes. Bitter in their defeat, the Rattlers smashed up the winners’ cabin and stole all the knives. A sustained and widespread punch-up broke out, and the staff realised their experiment was getting dangerously out of control. They had to repeatedly drag the two sides apart and finally remove them to distant locations to cool off. The Sherifs and their colleagues conducted two more almost identical experiments, both of which turned ugly. In one, a boy made a spear to use on the other group and another boy pulled a knife on a foe. The results of the third experiment remained obscured by a lack of public information – but the experiment came to a premature halt, leading to rumours that the boys had discovered the psychologists had been tricking them and turned on the adults. Some fascinating observations were made by the psychologists – particularly about the group dynamic in a situation of spiralling violence. Low status members could improve their position within their group by increased aggression to the out-group. Violence is more likely to be initiated by the losers. Pacifistic leaders are dumped quickly during hostilities, and leaders that try to broker a ceasefire face the risk of violence from their own faction. Being seen as a coward or a traitor at such times is the ultimate crime.
I’m sure all of the boys on Golding’s island would have agreed. An equally disturbing postscript emerged years after the Sherifs had written up their experiment. They ran into one of the boys (now an adult) at a party. He remembered the camp vividly, but described it as ‘terrific.’ William Golding certainly recognised this trait in human nature. During the final climactic hunt for Ralph, who the hunters are intending to spear and decapitate, the boys are described as cheering and laughing excitedly as they close in for the kill. I recall both the terror and the intense thrills of the neighbourhood games of ‘War’ we used to play as children. Everyone in the vicinity would gather, divide into two teams and scatter through the bush on the rural fringe of Sydney where we lived. The rules were simple: hunt down and capture the enemy, no head wounds. (We knew from experience that head-wounds meant parental involvement. A guaranteed buzz-kill.) I can still feel the frozen, delicious fear of near discovery – hiding behind the waterfall in the creek. And the joy of chasing down and catching one of the younger boys. One day, aged about seven, and ignominiously captured by a number of boys, I was tied up – not to a tree, but in a tree – with thick, scratchy rope. Attempting to escape and rejoin my tribe, I wiggled around so much that the rope slipped around my neck. Alone, spluttering, half choked and semi-hanging in a tree, I barely managed to escape. After climbing down from the tree with a bruised throat, I raced off to rejoin the fray, barely giving it a second thought. Perhaps as children we play war, and its innocuous cousin, hide-and-seek, to prepare ourselves for the violence that has almost certainly stalked most of mankind’s history. Lord of the Flies is a roadmap for the decay of a small group cut off from social constraints and an artificial conscience. Golding knew that the seeds for this kind of aberrant behaviour are lurking in all of us, regardless of our race, breeding or nationality. He understood just because we are ‘civilised’ doesn’t mean we will be civil to others when the moral shackles are removed. Ultimately the strongest and most enduring message I took away from Lord of the Flies was that almost no one is immune to these forces under the right circumstances. Most of us think we would never do anything similar if ship-wrecked on an uninhabited island, or trapped down a mine, or lost in the wilderness on a camping trip. But those who have lived through these kinds of situations know the truth. Samuel Avalos, a survivor from the 2010 Chilean mine collapse, spoke later of the critical need for cooperation and rules in a stranded group; ‘It’s a form of self-protection. It’s not about looking after your mates. No...you fuck them over if you can. It’s about protecting yourself because you turn into something else down there.’ In Lord of the Flies, William Golding displays his profound understanding of this concept. I’m sure he knew the true location of the Beast. The fact that Golding wanted to call his novel Strangers from Within speaks for itself. •
Email – email@example.com Read more about No Mercy: True Stories of Disaster, Survival and Brutality by Eleanor Learmonth & Jenny Tabakoff. (Text Publishing). http://textpublishing.com.au/books-and-authors/book/no-mercy/.
Ghosts and Guardian Angels By J F Derry Contributor
For me, the vital importance of Lord of the Flies touches the very core of my being human. I think it fair to say that William Golding was a conflicted man: gentle and sprightly, a student of Latin, Greek and Egyptian classics, but with sufficient levity to hold dear the Mos Eisley bar scene from Star Wars. It may be common knowledge that he was also often cantankerous, sometimes surly. There’s certainly the suggestion of a complex individual, perhaps disturbed even. Much of Golding’s troubled side is attributed to his being haunted by involvement in a military offensive that accelerated the Second World War to its close, but required a high cost in civilian lives. Furthermore, regardless of how vindicable any war might be, he could not help but be deeply affected by the pain and loss for families on all sides. However, there was an additional, primary source of turmoil because, from early childhood, ‘Billy’ Golding faced a tug-of-war between the rational and supernatural. The former was prevailed upon him by the oppressive influence of his science- and nature-loving father, with whom he had a close, but fiery relationship that overshadowed much of his upbringing. The latter was more passively absorbed from the stories of his imaginative mother. Although both were socialists and areligious, his sometimes churchgoing mother was fearful of ghost stories, and had more sympathy for Christianity than her unconditionally logical and staunchly atheist husband. Partly as an act of rebellion against his father, Golding read the writings of committed Anglican, C. S. Lewis, but despite his reaction, he would never be, could never be openly religious. Prayer was ‘a matter of shame’, and if practised at all, always embarrassedly and in private. Relatedly, he was reluctant to discuss Bible stories at all, and rarely mentioned Jesus, ‘a name he was shy of articulating himself.’ Ergo, in place of formal religion, he developed his own idiosyncratic worldview, partially informed by his own scientific education, which he took as far as the second year at Oxford’s Brasenose College before switching to English, and partly by his parent’s divergent philosophies. The resultant mixture of rationality and spirituality distilled within him a godless faith, at the heart of which was a rejection of logic’s capacity to provide ultimate answers, and acceptance that we occupy an unfathomable universe. Additional to the influence of his parents, much of his eventual outlook can be traced to reading C.G. Jung, especially during the 1970s. Biographer John Carey writes that Golding, ‘deduced from his reading that Jung did not believe in the objective existence of God, but only in a god-image “buried somewhere in the unconscious of all men”.’ This pertains to Jung’s concept of the psyche which, in its entirety, he called the ‘Self’. In passing, I love how James Lovelock’s idea of a self-regulating Earth, beautifully and perfectly christened ‘Gaia’ by Golding, also subtly suggests a planet-sized Jungian Self. So then, Golding’s predominantly rational worldview also had room enough for myth and fable, and the many dark imaginings that would populate his novels. Indeed, Judy Golding reveals in the very first line of her memoir that hers was indeed a superstitious family. Of note, she was being comforted by her father during one of her many fear-filled nights, when he told her that she was safe from ghosts
because, ‘each one of us has a guardian angel standing behind us. It never sleeps and its job is to watch over you.’ When it came to writing his first novel Strangers From Within, the book that would become known and loved as Lord of the Flies, like many writers, he used the written word as a tool for exploring his feelings on the subject. Judy Golding’s memoir tells us that two decades later, religion for him had ‘never been formalised’, nor likely ever was. Faber and Faber coined the famous book title, but Golding’s original better captures the mysterious depths he wished to reach, and was strikingly prescient of his future alignment to Jung. From the start, writing became his anvil and hammer, with which to beat out meaning. Each novel was his workshop, and religion and reason would be central to many of his subsequent works: The Inheritors (a personal favourite of his), Pincher Martin (a personal favourite of mine), The Spire and Darkness Visible. He would explain his motivation for writing Rites of Passage as, ‘It became necessary for me to understand …’. Also, like many writers, if indeed it cannot be said of all writers, Golding borrowed a character template from historical literature, for use in his own allegorical treatment. The personal story he chose, or could not help but be informed by, was that of Christ in the New Testament. Simply, Simon is Jesus. It is evident in the published book that ‘his’ gospel is salvation for the other boys, if only they would have heeded it. Furthermore, Carey’s biography tells us that in the unpublished manuscript, the one that alone intrigued and excited Charles Monteith at Faber and Faber, Simon’s character has even stronger Biblical overtones, ‘In that molten moment Simon knew that there was a person in the forest who had forbidden him to eat of the fruit, and that knowledge was as if someone had squeezed his heart.’ In this original draft, Simon goes on to encounter, ‘the other person’, who, ‘came out of the silence, swamped Simon, filled him, penetrated his limbs like bees in empty air.’ The parallels with the Holy Spirit as described in Acts 4:31 are all too obvious, ‘And … the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.’ In the original, Simon’s mission as the Chosen One, was to return to the forest clearing, where he hoped to rid the island of its evil and save the others by sacrificing himself to the Lord of the Flies. In contrast, the published version was edited of martyrdom, to conform to Monteith’s desire that Simon be, ‘explicable in purely rational terms’, thereby losing this Messianic motivation for his behaviour, and debasing his death from monumental gesture to murder by the mob. Golding’s original version of the book is surprisingly theistic given his personal uncertainty. So if not for piety, then what is the purpose of the message that he was trying to convey? In other words, on one hand, we have our beloved future Nobel Laureate eschewing traditional monotheism whereas, on the other, he openly dismissed logic as a tool for fundamental truth, being, ‘a structure internally satisfying, but no more than a loftier game of chess’. I don’t fully subscribe to his beliefs – I am probably more allied to his father’s outlook – but I do think that Golding’s Lord of the Flies offers wonderful insight into the fundamental conflict within all of us. So much so, that the ideas on behaviour captured within are essential to progressing our understanding of the ‘Human Condition’, that catch-all for all our strengths and weaknesses. In fact, as we make more discoveries, we seem to be converging on a thesis that jumps right out from his pages. To explain, as our appreciation of ourselves has improved over time, it has become better understood what happens when fear and terror meet with our imagination. Inevitably, this powerful mixture gives rise to superstition.
We also now know that this happens due to our brain having evolved an inherently curious and intelligent reasoning, that from a very early age seeks to identify causes for effects. Coupled with a brilliant propensity for patterns and design, it is hardwired into our cognitive faculties, to recognise structural design in nature, and interpret a purpose for natural phenomena. So, while the reason and logic of Golding’s father can be seen as evolutionary adaptions towards problem solving, the superstitions, faith-based myths and religions entertained by his mother are likely secondary products constructed as a means of interpreting the natural world. Back on the island, Simon tries to explain his moment of enlightenment to the others, the true source of their terror, ‘Maybe it’s only us’, but he is rebuked by the usually placid Piggy, ‘Nuts!’, and this makes him choke on his words and become, ‘inarticulate in his effort to express mankind’s essential illness’. And there it is. The essence of being human. Being conscious, but a cognisance prone to human error. I think this is Golding’s central message in the book: the beast resides within us, and that is what Simon understands and tries to explain. However, his attempt only serves to heighten terror because the others do not understand what he is telling them. They are unable, or unwilling, to grasp his meaning. Even usually attentive, impressionable Piggy doesn’t listen. A common analysis of these central issues in the book focuses on evil and the need for civilisation, its schools, policemen, and laws, to keep order. Without such things we would all be savages. Stripped of civilisation, the beast surfaces. Such conditions remove the layers that buffer us from our environment. Exposed, we are at the mercy of nature and susceptible to her laws. Professor of Modern English, Norman Page presented a paper to the First International William Golding Conference in 1993, in which he stated, ‘Darwinistic ideas of the struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest never seem far distant.’ Probably no coincidence as On the Origin of Species was part of Golding’s personal library, and one of the paperback editions sent back at great expense from a sojourn in the States. Philosopher Gilbert Ryle attributed our animalistic, violent tendencies to primitive wiring within our brains. In his 1949 book The Concept of Mind, he hypothesised that artefacts left over from our ancestors were retained during our evolution, but their influence on our behaviour remained submerged deep within our psyche until such time as they were released. He termed these behaviours the ‘ghost in the machine’, which Arthur Koestler went on to popularise in his 1967 book of the same name. But the beast of Lord of the Flies isn’t just base savagery, an inherent wildness that hibernates, awaiting its return to nature when civilisation breaks down. For example, Jack embodies savagery on the island, the beast within, however even he displays a rational side, ‘… fear can’t hurt you any more than a dream’, just as Franklin D. Roosevelt rallied his ‘fellow Americans’ for the struggle out of The Great Depression, saying in his 1933 Inaugural Address, ‘the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance’. So, ‘mankind’s essential illness’ is undoubtedly something more, and can be seen to be the untameable element in our consciousness, and that part of our brain that gives rise to our superstitious imaginings. When fuelled by fear and freed from constraint, there are few bounds on what gods and monsters our minds may conjure and project as part of reality. And for me, that is where Golding’s genius lies, at the heart of every one of us. Setting good against evil, truth against myth, and life versus death, the battle is fought out in an insular arena. Insular in
every sense of the word: isolation and ignorance. Plus its technical use too, for the insular cortex, that part of the brain associated with consciousness and human interaction. Now, that is a fascinating coincidence, considering the happenings on that island. And what a fascinating internal conflict encapsulated by this brilliant book. However perturbing, it is an existentialist struggle facing the inquiring mind, and all humans are blighted with this essential illness. It is in our very essence, and vital, and I love Golding ever more so, and his book, for telling its story.
The Signal Fire By Danielle Villano Contributor
It was September of our junior year of high school, and we were still clinging to summer. Still scratching at the mosquito bites on our ankles. Still praying our New Jersey suntans would hold out a bit longer. Rings of strawberry popsicles ghosted around our mouths. Our nights had been full of bonfires, and driving with the windows down, and shouting secrets into the air. It was summer, and we were young, and aren’t you supposed to be a little bit wild? And now we sat in our stuffy English classroom, the ceiling fan circulating tepid air uselessly over our heads. My thighs were sweating, stuck to my chair. Spread out before us on our desks were our mass market paperback copies of Golding’s Lord of the Flies, which was the first book we were to read that year. Junior year of high school meant ‘British Literature class’, which sounded stuffy and boring, and every fibre of my being – from my toes all the way up to my sunburnt scalp – rebelled against it. Normally a reader, one who turned to books for leisure, I found myself turning against the one thing that usually made me happy. ‘I’m not ready to listen to teachers,’ a friend said at lunch that afternoon, guzzling soda and forgoing the water bottle her mother had packed for her. ‘I know this is the year that really counts if you want to get into a good school, but I’m not ready for assignments, or rules. Let’s go back to the beach.’ But instead of the beach we found ourselves in English class, and despite protestations and much staring out the window, we eventually turned to page one. It wasn’t a bad book to start with; we didn’t find the normal dry, British wit we were used to analysing to death. We became acquainted with Piggy, Ralph, and Simon. The idea of being stuck on an island with room to stretch out and play seemed appealing – much better than the hallways of our school. But as the group of boys succumbed to savage instincts, we began to grow uncomfortable with the parallels we were drawing. We looked feral, or like children stranded on an island. No shelter. No authority. Our hair grew wild and windblown from humidity and reckless driving, stretching arms out open windows in an attempt to soak in the last bits of summer through our fingertips. Our skin grew dull and dry from a strict diet of cola and pizza from the restaurant across the street from school. Our assignments became rushed, uninteresting. Really, who cared: we were living, right? We were making our own rules. We’d get by on our own, we could do it. But why did this all suddenly feel so ominous? The fall was catching up to us, and as the pages turned we realised that, while freedom is all well and good, maybe it was sort of important to put a little more effort into things that would have consequences… His voice rose under the black smoke before the burning wreckage of the island; and infected by that emotion, the other little boys began to shake and sob too. As the conch shell shattered and Piggy fell to the rocks below, I was surprised to find tears stinging at my eyes. A startling feeling, but a quick look around the classroom showed me I wasn’t the only one. I don’t mean to say that reading Lord of the Flies righted all of our wrongs that year (because as teenagers there’s always going to be a few more wrongs), but it certainly got us thinking. The idea of a tropical paradise, an unexplored land full of only young people, sounded glamorous to start in the
same way that eternal summer sounds decadent and real and wholly possible. We swapped our cutoffs for longer pants, and we started taking notes in classes again. We werenâ€™t going to get into good colleges just by dreaming about it, were we? Seasons keep changing no matter how many popsicles you eat. And does that make me sad? Not in the slightest. Years later, I struggle to think of a future without having read Lord of the Flies. I struggle to think about a future without reading, or responsibilities, or sunblock. I try to imagine how my junior year of high school would have continued if I didnâ€™t put my longing for June-July-August aside and lose myself in a book. Where would I be now? Golding, thank you for keeping that signal fire burning, and for bringing me home.
What does Lord of the Flies mean to me? By Hilary Bell Contributor
Lord of the Flies means realising the power of literature. There I was, at sixteen, taking my English Literature GCSE. I was dressed in all of my favourite exam clothes, and jangled with good luck jewellery. I was nervous. The question was a bit different from what I expected, and my mind switched from frenzied muddle to a blank. Everyone around me was scribbling away. Pens on paper, pages turning, fingers flicking through books. But I was frozen, and I was panicking. It was the most terrified I have ever been in an exam and I have not found myself in that position since. Looking to the text for help, I searched for all of those quotations I knew almost off by heart. That’s when I drew the link – I couldn’t write the essay because I was afraid. I was afraid of writing something silly, and spoiling all of the good work I had done in the past two years. The message at the heart of Lord of The Flies concerns itself with fear. The boys turn on each other because they are so afraid of the invisible monster. The fear of this monster prevails over the whole book, splitting them into groups and ostracising individuals. Just as they are scared, fear was also paralysing me. And that is what I realised – it is just fear, nothing concrete, telling us something is wrong. This is when I realised the power of literature. Now, I am studying English at university, and if you followed the trail of bread crumbs back to where it all began, it would lead you back to Lord of the Flies. And whenever I get a little bit scared now, I often think back to what I learned in that hot exam hall five summers ago; do not let fear paralyse you and your dreams.
Lord of the Flies: An Unhappy Ending By Jenny Daoust Contributor
William Golding wrote Lord of the Flies to tell us about the beast within us all. The novel specifically focuses on the beast within twelve-year-old boys and the results of what happens when there is no controlling adult society. We are left with what some people believe to be a ‘happy ending’. In my opinion the ending isn’t quite so happy and reassuring as the last few lines has Ralph realising he will never be the same person again. He has come to the conclusion that he has lost his innocence, murdered a friend, and has seen a glimpse of humanity’s beast. I am also left wondering how the ending is a happy one for Jack, and the rest of the hunters. They do get rescued, although how will they take to civilised life once more? They have become used to the blood of animals and humans alike; they fight over power and authority. Will they continue to be violent and vile beings in normal society? Will their minds remember, and slowly torture them with nightmares and images of blood, violence, chants and pigs? The novel may end with a naval officer rescuing the boys, but we must remember these boys were not crying for the joy of being rescued but for the sorrow they have been infected with. They are inflicted with memories, guilt, and with the knowledge of the beast that lies within us all.
Reading Lord of the Flies By Carrie Young Contributor
I would certainly classify Lord of the Flies as my favourite book. Though I know the plot inside and out, there are many things to figure out, predict, and understand. One thing that Lord of the Flies does not do is go easy on you. It is written without hesitation, and forces you to realise how dark humanity can be. But that isn’t to say that there aren’t lighthearted tones to the book; in fact, the dark message is somewhat obscured by the boy’s antics in the beginning, only to be revealed by the end. Golding doesn’t skirt around any concepts, he simply writes things how they are and lets the reader interpret what everything means. That is the thing I love most about Lord of the Flies. In a world full of happy endings, Lord of the Flies is the reality check that we all need. It’s dark, but not without humour, and creates questions instead of hand-feeding the reader its concepts and purpose. I first read Lord of the Flies when I was in sixth grade, and I have reread it countless times since then. Each time, I catch things that I hadn’t noticed before, and I come to know the characters a bit better. I never feel finished with the book. It continues to make me question the society around me, and I’m sure that it will for years to come.
The impact of Lord of the Flies By Ross Coleman Contributor
My introduction to William Golding’s Lord of the Flies was a accidental and humorous one. I was trawling through the BBC GCSE website at the age of 12 (I was on the hunt for a good ‘classic’ and this seemed to be the best place to find one) and I came across this book called Lord of the Flies. Naturally I clicked on the video summary. ‘The first thing to know about Lord of the Flies is that it’s not an insect based sequel to Lord of the Rings,’ was the opening line. The whole video was filled with jokes like this probably in an attempt to convince bored 15-year-olds that the novel was exciting and cool. Yet, in between Piggy asking Ralph if they could build pizza huts and the actor playing Simon complaining that he ‘turned down a role in Holby City for this,’ I was engrossed in Golding’s tale of breakdown and barbaric savagery. After the video finished, I was eager to know more so I went into the site’s section on characters, themes etc where I became even more fascinated. I bought the book shortly after. I remember the cover of my copy very well. It was reddish and was filled with prehistoric art of little boys. Perhaps, (in hindsight) it illustrated the theme of savagery a bit too well. I read the book once and, for the most part, it went over my head. However, it left me deeply disturbed and yet... enlightened. I read the book again when I was 15 and I got more out of it. I found the characters more interesting; I found the imagery of the island more vibrant and I found the message more terrifying and relevant. The book made such an impact that it led me to write my first essay (for pleasure) entitled ‘Simon: Man or Messiah’. It was an essay debating whether or not the character of Simon represented Jesus. I then followed up with a 5 page essay on Ralph outlining why I thought he was interesting (his character development, his admirable qualities etc.) which I thought went successful. My copy of the book still has all the quotes I used highlighted and underlined. To put it plainly Lord of the Flies made me love studying literature and it made me become more aware of literary devices, which in turn made me improve my writing. As the book approaches its 60th anniversary I’ll be sure to pick it up and experience it all over again.
Reading Lord of the Flies By Rebecca Contributor
Like a lot of other GCSE classes, Lord of the Flies was a book that we all had to study. I can honestly say I just thought it would be another book that I would quite enjoy reading but have no impact on me whatsoever. After analysing the first chapter of this book, I knew it wouldn’t be like that. When I finished this unbelievable book, I read Golding’s essay ‘Fable’ that was just at the back of the book that was given to us. I’d never read anything like it in my life; the message that Golding was portraying through his words was the most honest and intelligent thing I have ever and probably will ever read in my life. The simple symbolism of the fire, and of the conch were just embedded so perfectly to let people know what Golding was trying to say. I think my whole class was so blown away by this extraordinary writing. Lord of the Flies means a lot to me. I feel like I understand life better, if that is even possible! The questions that this book has given me to think about – humanity and who we are – is unlike anything I have come across. I feel like I have been taught by Golding himself. It’s my favourite book now and it always will be. Happy 60th anniversary Lord of the Flies!
Reading Lord of the Flies By Tom Oates Contributor
I would encourage anybody who is relatively mature and not easily disturbed to read Lord of the Flies. It is the story of a group of English schoolboys who are stranded on an uninhabited tropical island after their plane crashed. It was mentioned in the book that they were fleeing a nuclear war, but very little detail was given about this. The book highlights the boys’ behaviour, good and certainly bad during their stay on the island. In the early part of the story, when the boys arrive on the island, there was order. At first, Ralph was respected by Piggy, but Ralph did not respect Piggy because he was overweight, had ‘ass-mar’ (asthma) and wore specs. Eventually, Ralph grew to like him. Working together, they found a conch shell, which Ralph blew into under Piggy’s instruction. The other boys heard this and came and gathered for an assembly. Piggy was very organised, and got everybody’s name. ‘Piggy moved among the crowd, asking names and frowning to remember them. The children gave him the same simple obedience that they had given to the man with the megaphones.’ The boys had a vote to decide who would be leader and chose Ralph over Jack who led a choir of younger boys. Jack was clearly disappointed, but Ralph wanted to work with Jack and assigned him to lead the group of hunters. I like that the beginning shows how the boys can have good leadership, organisation and cooperation. Slowly, the organisation and discipline of the boys began to slip away. Some boys would mess around instead of working productively and were reluctant to follow Ralph’s orders. There was also a cause for uncertainty when a young boy claimed that he saw a ‘beastie’ in the night. At first, Ralph used logic to say that there is no beast. Then, Jack claimed that they will hunt for it. This is a very important moment because it is the beginning of conflict in the book; the boys have to decide whether they agree with Ralph or Jack. This is a smart event created by William Golding. I think that at first Jack would not actually believe in a beastie because he is about twelve years old and probably was just saying that to be against Ralph. I think this is something that does happen quite often in real life. There are some more important conflicts between Ralph and Jack. One is when Ralph spots a ship in the distance and he finds out that Jack let the signal fire go out while he was hunting. Jack is very proud that he finally killed a pig to eat, but then ashamed and angered that Ralph is mad at him for letting the fire go out. Eventually, Jack decides to create his own tribe that will kill the beast, have some fun and not have to follow Ralph’s rules: ‘“The rules!” shouted Ralph, “you’re breaking the rules!” “Who cares?”’ Most of the boys excitedly joined Jack, which left Piggy, Ralph, and three others by themselves. After this, there was confusion about the beast, which leads to the killing one of the boys. There was also conflict because Ralph’s group had things that Jack’s group wanted. I think that the plot and writing style of this book is excellent. I think it graphically uncovers some of the problems of human behaviour and expands greatly by thinking about how badly civilised people (boys) could act, turning into savages and killing other members of their group. Here is a quote from before the major problems started. This is from Piggy who was disgusted by Jack:‘What are we?
Humans? Or animals? Or savages? What’s grownups going to think? Going off-hunting pigs-letting fires out-and now!’ This is definitely a problem, but it is in my eyes just before the turning point from boyish to savage. Here is a quote from later, when Piggy is killed: ‘“Which is better, law and rescue, or hunting and breaking things up?” Now Jack was yelling too and Ralph could no longer make himself heard. Jack had backed right against the tribe and they were a solid mass of menace that bristled with spears…The rock struck Piggy with a glancing blow from chin.’ I believe that this book should never be banned anywhere. I think that most people who decide to read this book will have at least some idea about the plot and be able to reason that it could be scary or disturbing. Also, there are a few words that you might not want a young child to hear, but I think that it is a parent’s responsibility to decide if they want to stop their child from reading Lord of the Flies, or any book. I think that banning a book for a large group of people for any reason (except for rare cases; possibly if a book is about something strictly illegal) is absurd. In conclusion, Lord of the Flies is an outstanding book! I love how it explores human behaviour in detail, and is entertaining. I believe that William Golding should be respected as a psychologist as well as a great author. I recommend that anybody reads it before they die because if you have not read it, you are missing out!
Reading Lord of the Flies By Matthew Wilson Contributor
Through hundreds of novels, I have read of adults doing awful things to each other for love and money. Sometimes, big people cackled like Victorian villains clumsily threatening children for their inheritance. Sometimes, children are the heroes themselves. Against all odds, Matilda will strive and win as all good people will. The Famous Five will take on baddies and your heart shall soar. Friendship is forever … if only you believe in yourself. Up to age 10, this is fine, until this sentimentality begins to make you queasy. Until you realise children aren’t protected in the real world. Nor are all of them nice. Children break windows, steal, lie and finally I thought; where are the books where children aren’t an author’s idea of goodness? Where age doesn’t exempt them from cold heartedness? Where they are villains? Today, authors can draw on a range of inspiration. Battle Royale by Toushin Takami gives a classroom of children weapons and a three- day deadline to stay alive. The Hunger Games Americanises this premise with a love interest and PG-13 feel. More potent is Stephen King’s The Long Walk which promises children anything their heart desires. But this is only available to the last one alive. A small catalogue of choice showing children capable of good and evil, and in real dangers. Not Scooby Doo-ing for clues. Before The Long Walk, there was the first: Lord of the Flies. Roald Dahl convinced me that adults were to be watched out for. Especially ones twiddling their moustaches. But in a time of spy novels and Enid Blyton, only William Golding showed the world that children could be the demons in the dark instead of merely being the ones frightened by it. To be saved from it by adults. But when a class of children crash on an island, there is no help. No teachers to tell them what to do or act. Every classroom has a Piggy. Every bullied child knows a Jack who boxes their ears to make himself feel big. A king. I had always wanted to be Ralph. Strong, loyal. But I would probably be killed halfway through such an adventure. So I was Simon. Small, bookish. Fair enough. If only the strong survived... I wouldn’t see chapter 10. No, I didn’t want to kiss Juliet. I wanted to survive the island. Today, many novels stir this trope of children becoming savages through infections, desperation or zombies. Of being as cruel as Jack or daring as Ralph. But William Golding was there first. An author bored of Blyton’s legacy of sweet and sugar. An author who made me open a book in school, and finally wonder... what if this happened to me?
Section 3 Teaching Lord of the Flies
Teaching Lord of the Flies By Gavin McCardle Contributor
The universality of this book was brought home to me well after I had read it as a student in Africa and New Zealand. I found myself teaching Lord of the Flies while living in a tropical South Pacific paradise in the 1980s. It was one of the set works for the senior secondary school English exams. To say that the teenagers ‘got’ the book is a huge understatement. It was as if it had been written for them that year, not decades earlier. The island where we lived was highly religious and controlled, and the themes of human nature without controls and the existence of original sin – a flaw in human nature – resonated at an immediate and fundamental level. The book did not need to be taught: It lived and breathed and was instantly comprehended, even in the second language it was being presented in. I wrote to William Golding about this experience, and he very kindly wrote back. I still have his letter. Lord of the Flies is universally relevant and immediate. While I have read William Golding’s other books and have my great favourites, the first book to read is always the still-living-and-breathing Lord of the Flies.
Teaching Lord of the Flies By Douglas Walker Contributor
For the anniversary book, I wanted to share a lesson that I teach through Lord of the Flies. For me the book is a master class in social psychology and human nature. The book always ‘changes the life’ of year 11s and is often the first novel that can really open their eyes to the symbolism and writer’s craft. Lord of the Flies Social Experiment Lesson • The objective was to get them to see how easy it is to affect human/social psychology. Before the students arrived, I arranged the room in a circle with two groups of tables at either end - I labelled the tables group 1 and group 2 and there was an envelope on each. I had the lights off and a large picture of people sitting around a fire on a beach. I put the instructions face down in the middle of the floor so it looks like a blank piece of paper – most pupils came in thinking it was ‘circle time.’ I told them to take out their books and a pen, then explained that I was going to try something and it would be totally random in its outcome - I also said that I had one word which I had written in an envelope which would be my prediction as to the outcome of the experiment (the word as I later showed them was ‘anarchy’). I explained that the only rule they had to absolutely follow would be to shut up when I asked them to. Then I just said ‘the instructions are on the sheet’ and then let someone click that they had to turn it over and read it – first task: pick a leader (I just made a point of pretending not to listen. It took them a minute or so but eventually they decided. Next task was for the leader to organise them into two groups; it was fascinating to see how the pupils chose to do this. In this case, the leader was chosen by vote and then numbered people 1 and 2. They then go to their respective group – group 1 (the leader’s group) will open the envelope and be told to make a 5 tier house of cards with the cunningly placed cards there. Group 2 will be told to relax and eat sweets which are also cunningly placed – you can imagine the conflict this sets up. After a few minutes, I gave group 1 members the chance to move to group 2; HOWEVER, I said if they stayed they will get double sweets next lesson providing they complete the house of cards. Surprisingly, they all stayed loyal! After another few mins, I told the leader of group 1 that they must choose three people to go to group 2. Then I told group 2 to pick a leader and pick three people to go over (Leader must stay) It was interesting how they treated these new additions – they never really accepted them but they did allow them some of the sweets. Once they had completed the card house I told them to sit in 2 circles with their current groups - they had 5 mins to make a name, a physical ‘salute’/ symbol that the group all must do and make 5 rules for the group. Both groups were completely different in this - group 2 were chaotic and shouting over each other despite using a bag as a conch. Group 1 (the original leader’s group) collaborated superbly – interestingly they had nearly all the girls!
After sharing the rules, symbol and name with both groups I gave them a situation – someone from group 1 had gone to group 2 and stolen £5 and punched another group member of 2 in the face – I told them to decide on a course of action (bear in mind most of their rules will be about equality and fairness). Upon hearing their ideas, which were also surprisingly diplomatic with a threat of force if the other group would be non-compliant, I ended the experiment. They then took a questionnaire I had prepared for their original groups and filled it in in silence. I then told them my prediction was anarchy and we talked about anarchic moments that had almost happened and why perhaps they didn’t get worse. Then I introduced the idea of social psychology and we talked about what they thought were the interesting sub-dynamics and behaviours – they then had a discussion without me saying anything and I finished with getting them to think about how they might behave if the experiment had been longer/linking it to the text. There was so much to discuss I think we will need another lesson just to get all the learning that they made out!
My reflection on Lord of the Flies By Stacy Risinger Middle School Language Arts teacher at Gulf Coast Academy of Science and Technology in Spring Hill, FL
In the early 1990s I was introduced to this fantastic book entitled Lord of the Flies. Aside from the incredible storyline I was enthralled with the beautiful description of the island mingled with the destruction of the boy’s sense of civility. Now I am an educator and have had the opportunity to teach this novel the past six years to my eighth graders. What started out as a sharing of my love for this book became a huge interdisciplinary project. Upon introduction of the novel my male students randomly pick a character name from a bucket and assume that role the entire eight weeks we read the story. This in turn prepares them for the murder trial they will be facing upon rescue from our Survival Island Activity. My female students act as judge and lawyers, with the 6th graders as a jury. In class no one can speak unless they have the class conch shell (which my Ralph wields as he sees fit). This helps immensely with rules and organisation (and can also play into frustration as the boys felt on the island). About halfway through the novel the students take a trip to a local nature preserve to learn survival skills. They are then randomly put in groups of four to participate in a five-hour survival island trip. The groups are given a standard sized shoebox with which they can fill with whatever they deem necessary to ‘survive’ for two weeks on an island. The island is completely remote, no bathrooms, no structures of any kind. Because we live in Florida, this island mirrors the tropical setting the boys encountered in Golding’s novel. Students are given a set of tasks which must be completed within the time on the island such as build a successful water proof shelter, gather fresh water, start and sustain a fire, map out the island with campsites, designated bathrooms, catch food, and most importantly, work as a team. There is no interaction with other teams on the island once they chose their campsite. I never imagined this book would lead me to having two huge capstone projects (trial and island survival) but from these experiences my students gather a true understanding of what these boys went through, their frustrations, excitement of a new location, despair when things did not work out. They also learn through our trial preparation how the justice system works and the details that go into knowing one’s character inside and out. I am so grateful to William Golding for creating such an inspiring novel and know that my future students will continue to benefit from these amazing lessons and life skills!
Top Left Image: Gathering palm fronds for a shelter. Top Right Image: Shelter building teamwork. Middle Left Image: Success! Middle Right Top Image: We have fire! Middle Right Bottom Image: Makeshift fishing trap. Bottom Left: Time to reflect. Bottom Right: Let the trial begin!
Hobbes vs Locke in Lord of the Flies, or Where Did Ralph Go Wrong? By Terrell Carver Professor of Political Theory, University of Bristol, UK
Synopsis • This is a paedogogical exercise well outside the domain of English studies or literary criticism. The object is to engage students with the basic ideas of political theory, in particular those of John Locke (1632-1704) as recorded in his ‘Second Treatise of Government’ (published anonymously in 1689). This is arguably the most influential political tract of all time, and is without doubt the most important founding document in the history of liberal democracy. Nonetheless it is not widely read in the original, and indeed commonplace understandings of democracy are somewhat at variance with the original arguments. This is despite the fact that the concepts, conclusions and sometimes actual phrases of this work have been copied into countless constitutions and similar conventions worldwide. Students respond well to dramatised representations of political situations, and indeed to simulations where they have to decide what to do. Part of the teaching method here is to use short clips from the Peter Brook film Lord of the Flies (1963), rather than the original text (which is not assigned). This is because the focus of the teaching is on political theory and Locke’s text, and the film clips promote a kind of real-life engagement as students project themselves into the scenarios as wouldbe participants, and as critical observers. The object of the exercise is not the strictly historical one of understanding Locke in his late 17th-century context, but rather the philosophical one of understanding contemporary questions about the nature and practice of liberal democracy. Classic theorisations of politics have a timeless and contextless quality as philosophizing, contextual studies of the philosophers and their texts and ideas notwithstanding. Indeed context-linked considerations of politics today – approached critically through theoretical terms – participate in this form of abstract reasoning about the nature of the human animal, social life and the need – if any – for structures of authority and for practical limitations on inter-personal violence. While Lord of the Flies is often read (or in this case, viewed) as a fable about ‘the human condition’ and ‘the problem of evil’, the aim here is to undermine these rather simplistic terms by using a more elaborate framework derived from Locke. These Lockean terms are of course largely exterior to the text (and I make no claims – yet – about authorial consciousness). The method encourages students to rethink and thus rewrite the text, as it were, in defiance not just of narrative but also of characterisation. In other words, it is quite important in this exercise to ask and answer questions such as, ‘What did Ralph do wrong?’ and ‘What should he have done instead?’ While there is no doubt that this method does considerable violence to the film, the novel and the canons of reception involved, it is also possible that – as a self-conscious exploration of counterfactuals relative to the ‘truth’ of the novel – it might (or might not) throw some light on what
anyone might think about the book and its author. In some ways the failure of the boys to construct a Lockean ‘political society’ or ‘civil society’ (the ancestor of liberal democracy by popular sovereignty) represents a dramatisation of commonplace failures to understand the logic of democratic systems. Possibly the narrative thus reflects the author’s own rather limited but no less normal level of knowledge concerning democratic theory and practice. At the end of the exercise students should have a sense of what they have learned from political theory that they (probably) did not know otherwise, and an analytical and critical grip on those who exhibit less understanding of democratic institutions than they do. They should also have an eye for those who manipulate this lack of understanding for political or other purposes. Read as a theorisation Locke’s text can be parsed into a number of fairly self-contained dramatic episodes in which men (and very occasionally women) are generically described in terms of interests, desires, proclivities, moral knowledge, life-cycle capabilities and various other commonplace factors. There are thus various scenarios involving a state of nature, the formation of a people or community, a binding agreement to form a political society, further consents to governmental institutions and practices arising from this, and explicit consideration of what should happen when persons violate the terms of agreement and the obligations that arise therefrom. This includes both criminal violations of the law by individuals, and individual or collective violations of the law by those empowered to execute it properly. Interestingly Locke abjures any distinction between domestic criminality and international warfare – robbers and enemy soldiers commit the same offence, and are to be treated just the same. The relevant and founding law of nature is both moral in the first instance and then the defining object of government when it is instituted: everyone is to be preserved in life, liberty and property, subject to measured and proportional defence – individual and collective – against those who violate this law, extending to measured and proportional punishment and reparations. What most commentators miss in Locke’s account is the importance he places on an impartial magistracy, independent of the executive agents of the state, both for ensuring that individual complainants are not judge and jury in their own cause, and for ensuring that public servants do not arrogate to themselves excessive powers. The danger with the latter is that they abuse their trust by violating the law and interfering with its impartial enforcement. In briefest terms this is a theory of popular sovereignty, whereby the people appoint the government to make and enforce laws, ‘all for the publick good’, and not otherwise. The opposite situation is described by Locke as the exercise of absolute and arbitrary power in violation of the public good (of which the people are judge), and a ‘rebellion’ – so to speak – on the part of the government against the people. Obviously this circumstance discharges any obligation the people undertook to obey the government, given the violation of trust, and the people are thus licensed to start over again as they choose. Commonplace accounts of liberal democracy focus on multi-party competitive elections, and often take an independent judiciary (at all levels) rather for granted. It is sometimes the case in practice that judicial independence becomes compliant or compromised. However, practice does not defeat theory (or indeed morality), and there are many examples where democratic governments have respected this ‘check’ on their powers or ambitions. And conversely there are many examples where police states and dictatorships have originated precisely where the impartial magistracy has been compromised or dissolved. I have parsed the Brook film into seven short clips of ‘meetings’ that illustrate successive stages in the Lockean scenarios through which his theorisation develops. Note that the focus on meetings presents ‘the boys’ in an undifferentiated way as ‘the people’, and also as generic ‘individuals’ (rather than ‘individual characters’ with differing foibles). In that way they illustrate differing sorts of decisions and actions that have political significance and consequences. Students thus evaluate their actions quite independently of who the characters are in the film and how the story goes in the novel.
The people are in a state of nature, i.e. without government. They are basically moral and know what to do but are disorganised. They form an assembly and agree – tacitly – to be bound by the will of the majority (of themselves) to obey decisions that are so made. The first decision is to elect a Chief (executive officer of the natural law that they recognise) by majority vote. The Chief recommends a further delegation of executive power for the public good, to which decision – and kind of decision – the people as a whole have obligated themselves to obey, because of their majority agreement to have one of them as Chief.
The Chief addresses the people and outlines the public good. The people recognise the obligation to obey the authority structures set up to realise this. The failed candidate recognises the authority of the Chief and the ultimate sovereignty of the assembly. It is proposed to have rules and punishments, which implies an impartial enforcement agency and independent judiciary. There will be occasional meetings of the full assembly of the people, with rules of parliamentary procedure. Everyone consents tacitly to be obligated by this.
Jack volunteers himself to the Chief as leader of a working party to make a signal fire and keep it going, in order to pursue rescue as the public good. This is tacitly ratified as a decision of the Chief, and tacitly endorsed by the people as obviously for the public good.
The Chief discovers that the fire has gone out. He confronts Jack and his cohort with their violation of their obligation to pursue the public good. Jack disowns this obligation, and when further confronted about this he resorts to unprovoked violence. By this act he clearly commits an even more serious violation of his general obligation to preserve life, liberty and property (he hits Piggy – who has committed no offence nor attacked Jack – and Jack thus smashes Piggy’s spectacles).
The Chief perceives that there is something wrong, but doesn’t know what. In fact Jack has violated his obligation to obey the will of the majority (and further decisions that follow from this agreement, so long as they are for the public good). He has also violated the law of nature, without which there can be no private or public good, and which the apparatus of an assembly and majority rule was set up to accomplish in the first place. As a violator of the law of nature (and of particular obligations undertaken to obey the majority of the people), he should be brought to an impartial magistrate and brought to trial. If guilty, he should be punished appropriately and in proportion to his offences. The Chief has failed to recommend to the assembly the establishment of an impartial magistracy amongst themselves, and to which he – of course – would himself be subject both as an individual and as Chief. In the absence of these decisions and institutions it is evident that Jack is setting up a rival authority to the Chief, without consulting the assembly (who could in fact revoke the Chief’s mandate and elect another, which might or might not be Jack). However, it is unclear at this stage how Jack proposes to legitimate his authority through some alternative means.
Jack and some of his cohort have withdrawn from the assembly to a separate location. He undertakes a secession and constitutes a ‘people’, but on very different terms. He rejects the authority of the former assembly and its Chief. His ‘people’ is constituted not through an agreement to obey a majority (of themselves) but through his own self-appointment as Chief. He issues an ‘invitation’ to join him, evidently as a ‘slave’ subordinate to his unmediated command
Jack’s regime is evidently one of absolute and arbitrary power, the ‘evil other’ to the Lockean regime from which he and his cohort have seceded. There is unwarranted punishment, pleasure in sadism, and one-man government by unending terror. He rules by command and violates the law of nature by organising a criminal act of war on the property of others, viz. getting fire by stealing it. He proposes the use of force, unwarranted by self-defence, rather than securing fire through trade or cooperation.
Conclusion â€˘ Liberal democracies require an independent judiciary, without which the apparatus of elections by majority rule are valueless. This is because the temptations to assume absolute and arbitrary power (or even petty criminality) are such that the rule of law is constantly under threat. All are equal before the law, whether of political society or of nature. While far from sure, judicial institutions are the only efficient and legitimate defences against violators of the natural law that life, liberty and property must be secured. Without this personal and collective security, there can be no public good amenable to all. Executive rulers are only legitimated by the people, who are bound to obey all decisions of their own majority, such as the delegation of power to them on trust. When rulers de-legitimate themselves by violating that trust, the obligation to obey them dissolves, and the situation reverts to the people in sovereign assembly.
Section 4 What does Lord of the Flies mean to me?
I recently saw Lord of the Flies at THE CRESCENT THEATRE in Birmingham – brilliant as ever yet very disturbing as it should be. I remember studying it in 1977 as a course text in English Literature at my comprehensive school. I have a 1965 Penguin edition of the book in my study. I think bullying is a good example of Lord of the Flies in modern society. I was bullied at school and often felt in 1977 and even now that society was and is burying its head in the sand on the issue!
Lord of the Flies is a very deep, emotional, disturbing and enjoyable piece of work. I taught English and Maths at Durham Prison. It could become rather boring so I decided to drift away from the norm. I took the prisoners through Lord of the Flies (book and film) and they were surprised at how much could be read into it. I had a very quiet, behaved class for a week (unusual to say the least). I then got them to write a review of the book.
To be reminded of the book is to recall my early days in education: teaching at the long-gone Bideford Grammar School with Lord of the Flies on the ‘O’ Level Syllabus. Naturally I have seen the stage and film versions since. Now it’s time for a re-read!
Lord of the Flies withstands time as a genuine portrait of the human condition. Golding’s pickaxe writing style scrapes through layers of human consciousness only to find that Evil is an integral part of it, even in the most innocent and tender ages. Lord of the Flies should be integrated in every educational system with a conscience of raising emotionally intelligent individuals, as it is a masterpiece of universal appeal and a bright example of artistic modesty and self-reflection.
Lord of the Flies was the only book I was made to read at school that I remember enjoying.
Lord of the Flies showed how good and evil can lurk within all of us, and that those that are different such as Piggy are often the focus of evil when things get difficult and evil is given a free rein. As a consequence I became a psychologist as it offered both the opportunity to work with individuals struggling to control their ‘evil’ impulses, and to help those who end up on the receiving end of cruel and unfair treatment.
First book I read in English and I was fifteen years old when I read it. Really shocking!
Is man born aggressive or is he turned aggressive by society and surroundings? This was the dilemma left to me after reading this spectacular book!
Section 5 Visual Interpretations
By Jennifer Coulton Contributor
Having studied the novel very recently for school, I was unsure how to show how the novel impacted me personally, and instead tried to illustrate how I felt as I read Lord of the Flies, and the mood I interpreted towards the end of it. It has become a novel very dear to me.
By Dorothea Ă„lenei Contributor
By Dorothea Ă„lenei Contributor
By Dorothea Ă„lenei Contributor
By Dorothea Ă„lenei Contributor
By Michaela Draskovich Contributor
By Jenny Zhang Contributor
By Siru V채is채nen Contributor
By Siru V채is채nen Contributor
By Christian McDavid Contributor
By Russell Davidson Contributor
I’m thirteen years old, I’m from New York City, and Lord of the Flies is my favourite book. This photo project is my own interpretations of Ralph, Piggy, Simon, Jack, and Roger, before and after the island. I based their appearances on how they were described in the book; for instance, Piggy has glasses with round frames, Jack is a redhead, Simon has dark hair and Ralph has light or fair hair. As for the other aspects of their looks, I interpreted the character in my own way. I think that my project shows how the island really affected the boys, and how different they were before the events of the book happened. The island changed the characters; for example, Jack and Roger. They start off as civil and organisedlooking choir boys, but develop into wild, savage hunters covered in war paint. Ralph went from a bright-eyed, optimistic leader to a boy who was fearing for his life. Simon and Piggy’s post-island pictures have been left blank, as they didn’t survive before everyone got rescued. However, their preisland pictures portray two cheerful schoolboys with no idea of what lies ahead. Featured here are my photos of Ralph, Jack and Roger.
By Gustavo Rico Navarro Contributor
Title: Isla de Golding You can see more of Gustavoâ€™s paintings on his Facebook page
By Charlotte Grange Contributor
My picture shows Ralph with a personification of the Beast; as one of the largest things that impacted me about the book was the idea of the duality of human nature and the idea that our choices can affect which side of us that we choose to follow. Ralph was a striking example of this, as a complex and highly conflicted character, he showed both sides of his personality â€“ representing the universal human.
By Imogen Plunkett Contributor, age 8.
Imogen sees this as the beginning of a graphic novel version of Lord of the Flies.
By Seanâ€™nell Shelton Contributor
Lord of the Flies is a masterpiece of a novel and one that will always stick in my mind. I remember how hooked I was on the book, from the moment I read about Ralph meeting Piggy up to the moment in which the naval officer arrived and Ralph mourned for the lost of innocence. I remember how much the implied death of the mulberry birthmark boy haunted me up to the end of the book, despite him being a minor character, and how I cringed as I imagined his death. I remember how satisfied and fulfilled I felt once completing the novel and I remember how, almost immediately after completion, I flipped through Goldingâ€™s notes on the book. Lord of the Flies will always be a special book to me because of how real it represented society from back then and, even more so, society today.
By Jorge Perez Contributor
Section 6 Poetry
Lord of the Flies Poem By Devin Arnold Contributor
This morning waking up it was warm The sun was like a spotlight in my eyes The other boys were already awake Deciding whether to gather firewood or go hunting Jack and Piggy were going back and fourth When Jack punched poor Piggy His eyes screamed with anger but he wouldnâ€™t fight back I stepped in and told them we should split up Once again, Jack didnâ€™t agree So he pouted away and walked toward the sea
NO WAY OUT By Nick Hinchcliffe Contributor
We are stuck between a rock and a hard place Luck is our ticket out, off this island Waiting, wishing for someone or something to pass and rescue us Out here we are savages, living off natural foods the island offers us The others are beginning to lose hope and give up For me, I stay strong and attempt to keep everyone together and alive Out here we need to stick together through thick and thin If just one of us gives up, all of us are doomed We will fight to keep each other on our feet and fight to stay alive There is no easy way out For the meantime we stay and survive through the mental and physical pain A boat or plane is our saviour
Untitled By Marissa Veilleux Contributor
Will we ever get out of this place Nobody seems to know All everyone does is fight This island is starting to blow At night it’s as dark as a cave All day you’re burning like tar under the sun This beast comes out and haunts us at night Nothing here is fun I am beginning to worry That we will never be saved I hope my mom will hurry So I’m not here till they dig my grave.
Featuring fan submissions from across the world, this ebook celebrates William Golding's most famous novel, Lord of the Flies.
Published on Jan 14, 2015
Featuring fan submissions from across the world, this ebook celebrates William Golding's most famous novel, Lord of the Flies.