Pub. Date: September 17th 1954
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Readership: Young adult (Contentious!)
Challenge: Classics Challenge – #1
Lord of the Flies is an allegorical tale about the conflict between “civilization” and “savagery”. When a group of English schoolboys become plane-wrecked on an uninhabited island, they first attempt to band together to create an orderly society. Food is gathered and signal fires are lit, but slowly a game of tug of war between chaos and order ensues.
I wanted a short, readable book to ease me into the world of classic literature for my 2012 Classics Challenge and so I knew Lord of the Flies would be my first book. I was also aware that it had been placed into the dystopian genre. 58 years after Lord of the Flies was published, dystopia has become hugely popular, and so I wanted to see how it compared to the other dystopian books I’d read over the past year or so.
I enjoyed finally getting to read this classic and slowly discovering the meanings behind certain things I’d seen or heard about before, such as the bloody sow’s head, the broken glasses, and why it is even called Lord of the Flies. I also appreciated the symbolism of the characters: Ralph, Jack, Simon and Piggy, as well things like the conch and the beast. I particularly enjoyed the first half of the book and seeing how the characters dealt with being stranded on a desert island. However, I was pretty distracted, for various reasons, while reading the rest of the book, and so I didn’t immerse myself into it as much as I should have. Even so, it was satisfying reading a novel that wasn’t completely straightforward, that had double meanings behind everything. Although, I did appreciate that I didn’t have to write a book report on it afterwards…
As for the dystopian aspect, this surprised me. If I didn’t already know that it was considered to be an early dystopian novel, I’m not sure that it would’ve crossed my mind to put it in there. The novel’s less to do with social structure and social control systems and more to do with the conflicts within “human nature”. I tend to lean more towards the definition of “dystopia” meaning that society’s in a repressive and controlled state, rather than simply dysfunctional or a “bad place”.
Overall, Lord of the Flies is an extremely readable classic. I can see why it has been chosen to study in schools – it’s about a lot more than the story, but I can also see that it’s easy to analyse it too much. It’s a shame that this has resulted in a lot of students despising the book. It’s worth reading on your own so you can make up your own mind about what the story represents.