Although reading is my obsessive love, sometimes we go through cool spells. I’d describe the latter months of this summer one such spell. I languidly re-read The Hobbit and the first two parts of The Lord of Rings, which is always a fun way to fill your dinner breaks. But it wasn’t enough. I wanted to feel that fiery passion again, so with just over a week until I started uni (yes of course I’m an English Lit postgrad, oh the sad predictability of life) and encountered a demanding reading list, I cast around my library for something to inspire me. I made an odd choice, picked something that had been squatting on my shelf for over a year, an unwanted present, not really my kind of thing. I’d watched the film in school, and had no doubt of Golding’s literary merit. But that didn’t mean I wanted to read it. However, I have an instinctive dislike to books sitting unread on my shelves, and it was quite short, so I decided to give it a chance…
Why is it that the books you think you’re going to hate, the ones you have no expectations for, are the ones that you can’t stop thinking about? And so begins my love letter to Lord of the Flies…
Erm..plot summary first. I’m awful at plot summaries. This is because of almost ten years of trying to squeeze myself into an academic English essay writing mould, repeating again and again, my head spinning from concentrating over my dismal essay attempts,
‘Don’t let it turn into a plot summary. Don’t just retell the story. Write something clever’
The whole point of this blog, however is for me to be able to write about books how I want to, rather than in dry, nobody wants to read it, essay form. I’m breaking all the rules!
So, Lord of the Flies. Without too many plot spoilers, the novel centres on a group of schoolboys who survive a plane crash on a deserted island. Without any adults, the boys are left to attempt to govern themselves, and it isn’t long before their attempts to build a civilised hierarchy, and keep a signal fire burning in the hope of a swift rescue, break down beneath the darker urges that might just be present in us all. This starts innocently enough, with the boys wanting to play at hunting wild pigs, and ends with conflict, fire and death.
I loved the language and style from the first, even though it took me a good fifty pages to get into the story. Obviously I was aware of the basic events, but I found the individual characters more interesting than I expected. I took an instinctive dislike to Ralph from the start, recognising a lot of boys I knew in his easy arrogance and natural expectation of leadership. It’s not that he was ever evil, he was too corruptible and easily led, like so many men who assume control and then find events spiraling out of control.
While it is Jack, and good old satanic symbol Roger with his double ended sharpened stick, who send shivers down the spine, I still keep coming back to Ralph and thinking ‘couldn’t you have done a better job? Why were you so weak?’ I know this is unfair, and the whole thing is really an allegory, and Ralph’s weakness stands for the whole of mankind’s. If society crumbled around our ears, the Piggy’s and the Simon’s would be first to go, and the ones that would survive would be the Sam and Eric’s, willing to adapt, however morally dubious, to save their necks. Maybe I recognised too much of myself in Sam and Eric, while wishing I was more like Piggy. It’s easy to say that no one knows how they would behave in such a situation, but I have a sneaking feeling that we all know too well, to our eternal shame.
So….definitely reccomend this. Especially to girls, like me, who think they can learn nothing from reading about a group of dirty schoolboys. You can, all kind of things in fact, about the fragility of our aura of respectability. When the world does go all ‘Day After Tomorrow’ on us, I already fully expected to be scavenging in bins and hunting cats, maybe even *gasp* burning books, within weeks. Now, after reading this, I’m guessing it would happen within days. But lets not forget what a beautifully packaged little allegory this is. I’m a sucker for beautifully flowing language, and if I’d known Golding was so fluent I’d have tried him sooner.
And yes, I do have to admit, the end did make me cry a bit.
“Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy”.
On a final note, I read most of this while in my admin slave capacity, and while I was waiting for the kettle to boil in the dingy office kitchen, one of the doctors I work for came in, saw what I was reading and said,
‘Oh, I’ve never been able to get on with any of that made up stuff.’
Really, the man is a medical genius, but I can’t help feeling sorry for someone whose heart has never been moved by some top quality fiction.