Normally, I try to write these posts out with a strict avoidance of spoilers. I know the books are not new. This one was originally published in 1954. Everyone out there should have had plenty of time to either read the book, or accept that they may have the ending revealed to them.
No, I do not avoid spoilers because the book is new or recent. I avoid spoilers to be nice. Some of you out there may still be reading the book, and I don’t want to spoil the end for you. Who cares how long it has been out? Not everyone reads a book when it first comes out, particularly when it comes out before they are born.
All of that being said, there will actually be spoilers in this post. If you are saving the ending for when you read it yourself, I would come back another day to read this one. You have been warned.
The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
Where did I get the book and how many pages?
This is one of my many kindle books, clocking in at 227 pages. It was purchased for the challenge, and may never be read again. Eh, we’ll see.
Have I read this one before?
No. I know it is a common one for high school reading lists, but not for my school. I’m beginning to wonder about the quality of my education; most of these books normal people read in high school were not on my curriculum. Should I worry?
What do I already know?
This story is a classic example of the inherent evil of man. A group of adolescent boys are trapped on an island, and have a rapid decent into chaos and violence.
What do I think now?
Well. I’m not happy.
Let’s start with the writing.
I found the writing to be rough. I’m not sure how to describe it exactly. It wasn’t bad writing, it was just rough. Gritty. There was no flowery prose, no thoughts about the greater picture. There was barely any thoughts at all it seemed. It was mostly speech and action, with little observation. It fit the story. This is about young boys hunting and fighting with each other in the jungle. Sure there are a couple who are talking about how to get off the island, but for the most part it is a grand adventure. There shouldn’t be conversation about the pretty flowers, because these boys would be unlikely to care. I don’t read a lot of books with this type of rough writing. It doesn’t mean it was not enjoyable, just noticeable. It worked for the book, and that is all that matters.
All right, now the story.
There is a part of me that wants to pretend this book is farfetched, that people would not automatically become cruel or violent to each other just because they could. Unfortunately, I know this is not true. There have been studies that show authority can make people act differently, as well as experiments that show people will do what they are told, even when they know it is wrong. Most humans are technically capable of doing horrible things. You can see the motivation of these boys as they become worse. Jealousy, anger, frustration, fear; these kids were on emotional overload and trying to feel powerful in any way they could. Sad, but it makes sense.
My problem with the story is the incredibly anticlimactic end. (Here are the spoilers, if you are wondering.) In the very end of the book, the majority of the boys have just killed another boy in a semi-accident. It’s hard to tell if Piggy’s death was intended, but they were trying to hurt him and shut him up. They have now decided they are going to hunt down and kill another boy, Ralph. Ralph is running for his life, hiding when he can, and doing anything to survive. Then he runs into a naval officer who is there to rescue them.
Technically, this is good. The intentional murder is not committed, and the boys save a little of their own humanity.
However, it avoids the major question of the book. Would the other kids have actually hunted him down, and killed him in cold blood? Would they have taken that step from something they could call an accident, to something that would actually have been murder? We can’t know because an outside influence came along and prevented the final battle from being completed. It saved Ralph, and saved the other boys. But it leaves you hanging as well.
I didn’t really want Ralph to die. But I kind of wanted the confrontation. I would have liked to have seen how the author imagined it would end between them. Would they have followed through or would some of the boys realized what they were doing and stopped? A part of me thinks they would have killed him. They had moved away from the laws of normal human society and were enjoying the hunt as though it was the greatest game ever. Left alone, I imagine they would have kept going. Perhaps that was the point of not telling us; letting the reader think about their own perception of what they would have done. It doesn’t mean I like that the chase did not play out. I feel slightly cheated having to create my own ending.
Cheated or not, it is time to move on. The next book in the challenge will be The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
Look! I am reading a real book this time! Actual paper!
This will be followed up by Catch-22, by Joseph Keller where I finally will be able to know where the phrase comes from. Yea me!