“Lord of the Flies” – Bookcast #40

Lord of the Flies (1954) by William Golding

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  • A very brief description of “Lord of the Flies”
    • A group of British schoolboys become marooned on a tropical island. Alone in a world of uncharted possibilities, devoid of adult supervision or rules, the boys begin to forge their own society, their own rules, their own rituals and their own morality.
  • What Golding sets out to do / Purpose of the book
    • His idea was to write a book about children on an island who behave in the way children really would behave…Like Adults?
  • The intended audience of the book / Who will benefit most
    • People who love philosophy and the study of human nature
    • People who want to understand how – and why – evil deeds happen
    • People who want to prepare for when shit gets dark
    • People who enjoy thrillers and horror stories (and Stephen King fans)
  • Who probably WON’T like this book?
    • People who don’t want to read about unhappy things
    • People who believe heroes will always save the day
    • People who don’t want to think about the horrors of childhood
    • People who only watch Disney movies
  • How does this book specifically benefit Men? 
    • Every man has the CAPACITY – and occasionally even the DESIRE – to be cruel or downright evil. Lord of the Flies forces the reader to confront his inner darkness and to decide how he will respond to these powerful and dangerous urges.
  • Is this book Easy, Average or Difficult to read? / How long is it?
    • The book is a quick read but with two caveats: 1) The writing is beautiful but dense with poetic descriptions and occasionally difficult to understand; 2) The subject matter is not easy to read and will haunt you long after you finish
    • 192 pages, (Audiobook is 6 hours 35 minutes)
  • What are the overall book reviews? Is the book well-known? Popular? Significant?
    • 31,157 ratings, 4.6 stars
      • #1 in Non-US Legal Systems (Books)
      • #1 in Comparative Politics
      • #1 in Censorship
    • Audible
      • #1 in Teen & Young Adult Fiction on Peer Pressure
      • #1 in Teen Fiction on Peer Pressure
      • #2 in Literature & Fiction Classics for Teens
      • #359 All Audible Books
  • Book-To-Movie Translation 
    • Multiple movie adaptations (1963, 1975, 1990 and 2018) as well as a stage play and a BBC radio drama

Bio of William Golding

  • Sir William Golding was born on September 19, 1911, in Cornwall, England. He was raised in a 14th-century house next door to a graveyard. His father, Alex, worked as a schoolmaster. His mother, Mildred, a homemaker, was also an active suffragette who fought for women’s right to vote.
  • William received his early education at the school his father ran, Marlborough Grammar School. When he was 12 years old, he attempted, unsuccessfully, to write a novel. A frustrated child, he found an outlet in bullying his peers. Later in life, William would describe his childhood self as a brat, even going so far as to say, “I enjoyed hurting people.”
  • After primary school, William went on to attend Oxford University. His father hoped he would become a scientist, but William opted to study English literature instead. In 1934, a year before he graduated, William published his first work, a book of poetry aptly entitled Poems. The collection was largely overlooked by critics.
  • After college, Golding worked multiple jobs – including some time in the theater – but eventually he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and in 1935 took a position teaching English and philosophy at Bishop Wordsworth’s School in Salisbury. Golding’s experience teaching unruly young boys would later serve as inspiration for his novel Lord of the Flies.
  • In 1940 Golding temporarily left his position as a teacher to join the Royal Navy for the next five years
  • During World War II, he fought battleships at the sinking of the Bismarck, and also fended off submarines and planes. Lieutenant Golding was even placed in command of a rocket-launching craft that landed in Normandy on D-Day
  • Of his World War II experiences, Golding said, “I began to see what people were capable of doing…man produces evil as a bee produces honey.” 
  • In 1954, after 21 rejections, Golding published his first and most acclaimed novel, Lord of the Flies. 
    • The book is on many Top 100 and multiple Top 10 lists for best novels ever written
    • Lord of the Flies is universally considered one of the most important young adult novels and is taught worldwide in high-schools
      • However, because of it’s difficult subject matter and especially because the protagonists are all children, the book was banned for many decades in multiple countries
  • At the age of 73, Golding was awarded the 1983 Nobel Prize for Literature. In 1988 he was knighted by England’s Queen Elizabeth II.
  • During his life Golding wrote 12 novels, including Rites of Passage (winner of the 1980 Booker McConnell Prize), Pincher Martin, Free Fall and The Pyramid. He also wrote poetry, plays, essays and short stories.

Breakdown of Themes

  • Civilization Vs. Savagery
    • The central concern of Lord of the Flies is the conflict between two competing impulses that exist within all human beings: the instinct to live by rules, act peacefully, follow moral commands, and value the good of the group against the instinct to gratify one’s immediate desires, act violently to obtain supremacy over others, and enforce one’s will. 
  • Loss Of Innocence
    • As the boys on the island progress from well-behaved, orderly children longing for rescue to cruel, bloodthirsty hunters who have no desire to return to civilization, they naturally lose the sense of innocence that they possessed at the beginning of the novel. 
  • Struggle To Build Civilization
    • The struggle to build civilization forms the main conflict of Lord of the Flies. Ralph and Piggy believe that structure, rules, and maintaining a signal fire are the greatest priorities, while Jack believes hunting, violence, and fun should be prioritized over safety, protection, and planning for the future. 
  • Man’s Inherent Evil
    • The fact that the main characters in Lord of the Flies are young boys suggests the potential for evil is inherent even in small children. 
    • Jack, for example, is initially keen for rules and civility, but becomes obsessed with hunting, frightened and empowered by the promise of violence. Even Ralph and Piggy, who both strive to maintain their sense of humanity, ultimately join in on the mass murder of Simon, momentarily surrendering to the thrill of violence and mass hysteria. 
  • Dangers Of Mob Mentality
    • Lord of the Flies explores the dangers of mob mentality in terrifying scenes of violence and torture. Early on, the boys sing “Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Spill her blood,” after a successful hunt, elevating their shared act of violence into a celebratory chant. By coming together as a mob, the boys transform the upsetting experience of killing an animal into a bonding ritual. 
    • Acting as one group, the boys are able to commit worse and worse crimes, deluding one another into believing in the potential danger posed by the beast justifies their violence. Similarly, the boys use warpaint to hide their identities as individuals, and avoid personal responsibility.
  • War And The Future Of Mankind
    • Set during a global war, Lord of the Flies offers a view of what society might look like trying to rebuild after a large scale man made catastrophe. In their attempt to rebuild society, the boys cannot agree on a new order and eventually fall into savagery.
    • Ralph comes to believe that social order, fairness and thoughtfulness have little value in a world where basic survival is a struggle, such as after a devastating war.

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"Lord of the Flies" - Bookcast #40 1

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