A thoughtful entree for smart teens served to you by mindful, extraordinary author
I have "Lord of the Flies" to thank for getting me to really like my English teacher (oh, the discussions we had and the allegorical insight she gave me!) and opening my eyes to the magic of allegories. An expertly crafted allegory that can be seen from a political (I think), religious, and social perspective, "Lord of the Flies" is a book that I highly recommend only to smart, mature teens who can read past the lines of a tale of savagery and survival and see a thought-provoking, viewpoint-changing message of the necessity and importance of civilization or religion, depending on what viewpoint you're seeing the story through.
The story surrounds the crashing of a plane full of British school boys and the events that follow as the boys, who survive the plane crash unlike the grown ups that attended them, try to survive on the island and maintain a sane, orderly environment until the grown ups see their signal fire. Mature, blonde, and attractive Ralph is initially chosen as the leader of the band of survivors, and makes his main purpose the maintainment of the signal fire. Choir leader Jack, a dominating individual with an evil intent as dangerously red as his hair, tries to do his part in helping the group survive by attempting to hunt the pigs that thrive on the island, but instead awakens a blood-thirstiness within him that is not just dangerous to the swine on the island. What follows is conflict within the "tribe" of boys, the sudden entrance of a fearful beast on the mountain top of the island, savagery conducted by Jack against other boys, tragic deaths, and a heart-racing ending that isn't quite epic: heart-wrenching, destructive, and a conclusion full of closure and realization for both the reader and the characters.
In the copy of the book loaned to me for school, a former student who used the book wrote in permanent, blue ink on a front page "Golding's question: what will happen to humanity when the bonds of civilization are loosed?". I see this question as a one posed from a social perspective, and Golding makes it quite clear through his expert penmanship that if we have no rules to live by, or grown ups to censor and correct us, we will be unable to survive in a peaceful, orderly society. By a religious perspective, you could rewrite the sentence as "Golding's question: what will happen, or what is happening, to humanity if we lose spiritual order and morals?"; if we do not have God's influence in our lives, we will subsequently fail in life morally and spiritually, and have something else happen to us that I can't specify because I would be leaking a big spoiler at the very end of the novel.
I loved how I could find meaningful symbols on every detailed page, a clear connection between the allegory to real life, irony that made me laugh at the world alongside what was going on in the book, three different perspectives of the allegory, and a whole lot of meaning about society and our lives. Golding was a drag to read at times, especially if you had a big project on your mind or it was a nice day outside, but if I just plowed through it, I could get what he was saying and place all the jigsaw pieces of descriptions together to make a big, detailed picture of the allegory he was expertly crafting. The characters made wonderful symbols from the intellectuals and scientists we often go to for knowledge and technology to the mature leaders we heavily rely on to make big decisions for our nation, city, or, in the case of the allegory, tribe. I wondered once or twice, after finishing the novel and getting a good grade on my efforts in English on it, if Golding had written any other meaningful, worthwhile literature that pointed out dangerous aspects of our human nature that are so gracefully bound by rules of civilization and laws of morality and society; I hope that who ever reads this novel also comes away with a respect for this author and the no doubt many years he spent putting together his ideas into this allegory.
Violence is the biggest issue in this novel. Several characters are killed in this novel, though the murder is far from glamorized. One character is thought to have died in an accidental forest fire caused by some of the other characters. Characters get wounded while having a spear fight, though nothing graphic is depicted. Language comes next in mature content, with a-s and maybe a few other questionable words. Sexuality? Let me point out that there are no girls whatsoever on the island, so there are no soppy romances or kisses to have to keep your eye out for (Sorry romance-lovers!) Just an occasion where boys go swimming nude, but Golding doesn't go into detail about their looks. In fact, as a discussion prompter, one should talk with other readers of this novel about how the book would have been different had it been girls who were stranded on the island, or both boys and girls on the island. You should also look up why Golding used boys in his novel and not girls; it gives a lot of credit to girls, by the way. Over all, there is very little mature content to look out for in this novel by today's standards, especially if the readers are thirteen and up as I suggest. There aren't exactly "good role models" in this book, all the characters are symbols of religions or types of people. But Ralph is resilient, and tries his utmost best to make good decisions for the tribe. Piggy is a great help to the boys and Ralph, and is very smart. Simon is quiet, caring (especially to the little boys in the tribe), righteous, and very spiritual, which I personally found very gratifying.
I found it to be a great allegory for thoughtful, smart teens who like message-laden masterpieces in literature and long discussions with their English teacher. Thirteen and up and five full stars for "Lord of the Flies"!
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing