Revisiting Lord of the Flies

Rhett Breedlove
Posted 6/12/24

It could be fair to argue with billions and billions of people worldwide invested so far in technology and social media, literature itself has taken a concerning backseat.

Perhaps it isn’t …

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Revisiting Lord of the Flies


It could be fair to argue with billions and billions of people worldwide invested so far in technology and social media, literature itself has taken a concerning backseat.

Perhaps it isn’t necessarily even the younger generations alone. It may be fair to say older generations have even drifted away from reading books, and have become far more attached to social media as well as biased corporate news networks themselves.

Not all of course, but enough to become troubled of the fact with this day and age so many of us fall into these technological snares. Misleading deceptions which for nearly two decades have slowly but surely grabbed our attention, but quite possibly have robbed us of our own minds and rational judgment.

The most wonderful thing in the world is to open a book, whether fiction or non-fiction. We let the words on the page lead our own mentalities and souls on a journey where we actually become the masters of our own universe.

The author is simply the one laying out the path for us to follow. It is up to us whether we choose to go with them, and which direction to go once we begin.

With so much unsettlement over the last few years, one truthfully can’t help but remember such a story from years ago which resonates perhaps now more than ever.

But first, a brief history of the man who led us on that journey.

William Golding (1911-1993), a philosophy teacher turned Royal Navy Lieutenant who served aboard a British destroyer during World War II was losing faith in humanity. Constantly confronted with the harsh truths of a brutal and violent war which saw the deaths of millions worldwide, Golding would soon take us on a cold dark excursion into his literature we would not soon forget, and would become his most acclaimed piece of work. 

Let us not forget, WWII remains the first and only time in history where nuclear power was actually used.

Ultimately, we are talking about none other than his famous 1954 novel, Lord of the Flies.

In the story, we find ourselves joining a group of young English school boys stranded on a deserted island after their plane goes down. We don’t know exactly where they were going or why, but it is strongly hinted they are in the midst of a future nuclear war and were part of a massive evacuation.

Right there Golding doesn’t just give us all the answers. Truth be told a good storyteller doesn’t reveal everything. They drop subtle hints and let our minds and judgement take us where we need to go.

With no adults and no supervision, the boys are soon forced to realize they are on their own, with questions on how to survive as well as being rescued laying heavy on their minds.

Among these boys is Ralph, a blonde boy with natural leadership abilities who discovers a large seashell, or “conch” lying on the beach. Ralph uses the conch to blow trumpet-style to see and assemble all other survivors on the island. Seeing Ralph’s initiative by calling others to assemble and convinced of his headship qualities, Ralph is soon elected “chief” by all the other boys.

The reader during this time is also introduced to Jack. Jack is a tall redheaded boy who already is well acquainted with a small number of survivors who appear to be choir singers of sorts, and already look to Jack as their leader. Seeing Jack is disgruntled over not being elected chief by the others, Ralph soon designates Jack and his friends as “hunters,” who will be responsible for providing meat as nourishment for everyone.

As Chief, Ralph soon delegates responsibilities to all the other boys.  The first rule is a signal fire must be kept going on top of a hill at all times to increase the young men’s chances of being rescued.  Second, Ralph will be in charge of helping the smaller boys, known as “littleuns” in gathering fruit and building shelters. 

The final rule is to have fun.

During this first assembly meeting, there is already talk amongst the boys of a strange and perhaps dangerous creature living on the island which the boys dub the “beastie.” Ralph is skeptical and remains adamant there is no beast, and is just a figment of their imagination.  

As the story unfolds, we are soon introduced to other characters, each taking on a different representation. 

We meet an intellectual but small portly boy with glasses dubbed “Piggy,” who we soon see represents knowledge and reason to the reader. A social outcast, Piggy is regularly tormented and teased by the other boys. Even Ralph who has responsible intellect and compassion to the littleuns briefly takes pleasure in bullying Piggy. We soon realize however Piggy possesses a powerful tool for the boys on the island: his glasses. The boys discover how easy they can make a fire with the sun’s reflection of the spectacles, which soon become an extremely valued tool representing both survival and dominance.

It is never revealed what Piggy’s real name is.

We also come to know Simon who, like Piggy, is also an outcast.  Fainting frequently for no apparent reason, it is often implied Simon may be an epileptic. Simon represents purity and spirituality, as he has a strong connection with nature. He is drawn to exploring the island and forests alone, preferring his own solitude with the calmness of the world around him as opposed to hunting and playing with the other boys.

Golding chooses as well to show us a stirring picture of Roger. A large but quiet boy who is close and loyal to Jack, we soon discover Roger is quite possibly a sociopath who enjoys sadistically hunting, killing and hurting others. This is demonstrated soon after the assembly of the first meeting of the boys where Roger proceeds to throw rocks at a small littleun playing on the beach. Although at first he avoids hitting the small child, Roger soon realizes with no adults, no supervision and presumably no consequences; he is free to inflict fear, physical violence and pain upon his peers with no one to stop him. 

As the story progresses, we see Jack and his hunters become less and less concerned with being rescued and keeping the signal fire going. We see signs Jack is losing identity with his own humanity. He and the other boys begin painting their faces, holding ritualistic fire dances and take delight in hunting and killing pigs for meat. This becomes a great source of concern for Ralph, who fears he is losing his grip on his authority, as more and more of the boys become seduced by Jack and his newfound way of life.  

We also see Jack is becoming more and more hungry for power and control over all the other boys. He and his hunters raid Ralph and Piggy’s camp to forcefully steal Piggy’s already broken glasses, having been punched in the face by Jack in an earlier confrontation.  He cuts the head off a freshly killed pig and presents it on a spear as an “offering to the beastie.” We see now the startling contrast between both Ralph and Jack. Ralph represents authority, law, order and democracy; while Jack represents authoritarianism, control by fear, and sadism.  

The book is both widely taught, and widely challenged around the United States for both its suggestive subject matter, as well as its self-examining message. There are many questions and themes explored in the novel. Authority, democracy, dictatorship, personal flaws and inner conflict are all attributes our characters have where we the reader also can relate to and must deal with worldwide. The story forces us to step back and take a hard look at ourselves, and who we choose to build our relationships with. It could be argued any individual, male or female, young or old, would read this story and almost be guaranteed to find a character they can relate to. Going further, it could be guaranteed the reader would be reminded of someone they know who relates to the characters; reasonable or paranoid, peaceful or violent.  

And you probably just thought of one.