Saturday, February 25, 2006

Lord of the Flies: Book Review

Lately, I've almost exclusively been reading the Old Masters and the classics. My modest goal: I want to have at least read everything a high-schooler is supposed to read.

"Lord of the Flies" is essential reading for school kids not just in the US, but also in Germany and probably many other countries. It's a wonderful book - simple, dark and stark.

A short summary from

William Golding's classic tale about a group of English schoolboys who are plane-wrecked on a deserted island is just as chilling and relevant today as when it was first published in 1954. At first, the stranded boys cooperate, attempting to gather food, make shelters, and maintain signal fires. Overseeing their efforts are Ralph, "the boy with fair hair," and Piggy, Ralph's chubby, wisdom-dispensing sidekick whose thick spectacles come in handy for lighting fires. Although Ralph tries to impose order and delegate responsibility, there are many in their number who would rather swim, play, or hunt the island's wild pig population. Soon Ralph's rules are being ignored or challenged outright. His fiercest antagonist is Jack, the redheaded leader of the pig hunters, who manages to lure away many of the boys to join his band of painted savages. The situation deteriorates as the trappings of civilization continue to fall away, until Ralph discovers that instead of being hunters, he and Piggy have become the hunted: "He forgot his words, his hunger and thirst, and became fear; hopeless fear on flying feet." Golding's gripping novel explores the boundary between human reason and animal instinct, all on the brutal playing field of adolescent competition.

What I like about the book is that even in its darkness, it is not quite Orwellian. Even though things go totally out of control in the story, you can always go back and see how a couple of tweaks here and there in the 'system' could have led us back to 'civilized society' as we know it.

Silly as it sounds, the only reason I hadn't read this book until now was because of its name. "Lord of the Flies" - what the hell is that... especially compared to "Lord of the Rings."

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