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William Golding: Lord of the Flies

This book is so well-known that little needs to be said here. A group of English schoolboys during World War II crash on a desert island. Ralph tries to establish a legitimate order with his friend Piggy. On the other side is Jack and his group who just want to have fun, i.e. behave like savages without any authority. The order established by Jack soon breaks down – a fire gets out of control, Jack challenges Ralph’s leadership and the signal fire is out when a ship is spotted on the horizon. At the same time, Golding uses the symbolism of the Beast. The Beast is a fierce creature seen by many of the boys but, in all cases, has a logical explanation – a boy emerging from the forest, a parachute moving in the wind on a dead parachutist and the Lord of Flies, the head of a pig they killed and had put on a stake, which is covered by flies. However, for many of the boys, it is something to be feared, though for Golding it is clearly the beast in all of us.

Jack gradually takes over as leader and becomes more brutal. Ralph and Piggy, the voices of reason, are even attracted to the primitive savagery that Jack and his group represent. Eventually, all the boys, except Piggy, desert Ralph and join Jack. Piggy is killed and Jack and his group are in the process of hunting down Ralph when the Navy turns up to rescue them. Golding’s point, of course, is that we all have a beast within us and that the thin veneer of civilisation can easily be shattered. He’s probably right.

Publishing history

First published 1954 by Faber & Faber