Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lord of the Flies, William Golding

I know this book has many different cover arts. This reflects the one I read. Also, I will not be reviewing the movie adaptation since it is rated R and aside from that, I'm not sure I need a visual more than what my imagination has already come up with. Although looking at pictures from the movie, the actor playing Ralph was a doppleganger of my imagination for sure!

Well, this is definitely a confusing bit of literature. But it was written in the 1950’s where, as I’ve have internet “conversations”, the point of literature and what the audience of the time wanted and demanded could have been very different from today. For me, I felt like there were WAAAAY too many unanswered questions, details just completely left out, like the character of “Piggy” we never find out his real name.

It starts out as what seems to be an island adventure story of a bunch of boys, “littluns” who are around the age lf 6, and “bigguns” who are closer to 12 ish. Our main protagonist, Ralph gets elected Chief because he found a Conch shell and Piggy shows him how to blow it and by so doing, he brings all of the boys out of the woodworks and seems to be in charge. His nemesis is Jack, the leader of the choir boys-turned hunters. With no adults, they are left to their own devices. Ralph wants rules and order and for everyone to make sure that they keep a fire going because the appearance of smoke may help them get rescued. Jack and the Hunters just want to hunt the native pigs for meat and have feasts. As mentioned in a “notes” section at the end of the copy I read, Ralph represents modern society with laws and order. Jack represents a lack of those things and the carnal, sensual nature of man that always balks against rules and order. Piggy, is as the name implies, overweight, he has asthma and wears glasses. The glasses are important because they are the only means of starting fire, using them and the sun to get a spark. He has intelligence and he thinks things through, but no one takes him seriously, so he unofficially makes himself Ralph’s right hand man. Ralph eventually realizes the value that Piggy has, but is then subsequently ridiculed for it. Jack and the hunters use paint to disguise themselves, first for camouflage to hunt better, but then it becomes a status symbol and also a way to transform who they are.

With the symbolism in mind, we can see how a lot of people get made fun of for having common sense. We see how those who listen to those with common sense are also ostracized. We see leaders who do things with emotion and fervor, serving what the people want to hear and see. With the paint, the hunters truly become savages and they become so incensed with it that death occurs to the innocent. And in the heat of the moment, many of the boys have a role in this murderous endeavor. It kind of reminded me of the KKK and how they disguise themselves and how, without that cover, could seem like decent people, but once they have on their disguise, are given courage to do horrible, terrible things to other human beings.

I wasn’t incredibly impressed by this book, to be honest. It was depressing and reminiscent of how I remember feeling at the end of reading “The Pearl” by John Steinbeck for one of my freshman year of high school required readings. But the point of these types of book isn’t really entertainment. These are warning books. These are meant to teach us lessons about ourselves as a human race. How we need to tame human nature and kick against the pricks that would have us become carnal, sensual, savage and without feeling towards one another. We need to be a human race that respects and reveres a certain level of order based on reason, common sense, human decency, and a love of mankind. We need to move past childish ways of making fun or not taking people seriously if they are “socially awkward” or anything that Piggy represents. We need to value EVERYONE for what they can bring. Hatred, jealousy, lust for power are all things that drove Jack to become what he did. A lesser character, Roger, became his wing-man as the only true sociopathic character who we find was the main person who would torture others. Truly sadistic. He took power, whereas Ralph had insisted on a vote for leadership.

We see the fall of the boys’ society when Ralph’s plan yielded no immediate results. Yet, the minute Jack offered something better-a taste of meat instead of the dull diet of fruit and water, alliances changed. And once his true colors showed, the other boys were too afraid of what would happen to them if they attempted to leave. It’s like the bible story of Jacob and Esau where Esau gave up everything in order to curb his hunger for a moment. We need to be weary of politicians and leaders who promise the offer of a quick solution. Maybe we should look for more honest people who tell us straight up that their solutions, while they may not LOOK like the right thing at first, or might hurt us a little more than we are already hurt, are actually better in the long run. After all, even during the most heinous crime of this book, when all was said and done, it was only finished when, as Ralph had always said, smoke was seen.

Some people have tried to draw similarities between Lord of the Flies and Hunger Games, but I only see VERY loose similarities and that is children inflicting violence on others….possibly as a form of entertainment. You get the impression that was what it was for in this book, but it’s never completely and solidly stated. I mean, in the 50s, how were they to be watched? So the premise of the two books  and WHY the kids are being violent are completely different and I believe that the intentions of the books are different and the lessons to be learned are different. Lord of the Flies felt hopeless, Hunger Games taught that the only things stronger than fear is hope.

But nonetheless, I did find this article interesting with some up to date comparisons and studies about human psychology:

Although I must warn that it pretty much sums up the entire plot synopsis on the second page, so if you want to read it without any idea, skip page two. The rest goes into more depth with thematic material.

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