I love English, but I genuinely thought that Lord of the Flies was just going to be another depressing high school read.
I was so wrong. Lord of the Flies by William Golding gnaws on one’s heart (in the best way possible) like flies eating away a severed pig’s head.
At the beginning of school years, the English department at my school likes to feed us stories about the dark side of humanity. So when we had to read Lord of the Flies for GR 10 English, I was prepared to plough through some boring yet deep stuff.
Here’s the story: Everything starts going down for a group of marooned boys trapped on a deserted island. Lord of the Flies by William Golding was published in 1954, after WWII, after even the most civilized and the most comfortable started questioning humanity. Great theme, great message, great setting, not my thing. I thought.
But I really enjoyed the book, even though I wouldn’t say I loved the overly descriptive language. In fact, not only did I enjoy the story, I also found the reading process mind-blowing even after people spoiled it for me. (Guys, do not spoil things for people, I know it’s fun but it’s RUDE) This, I think, says something about what the book tries to discuss- about what humans can do to each other.
Golding established a great setting to trap all the characters in one place and construct a miniature society. After a plane crash, a group of British schoolboys are trapped on an island without any adults. They tried running their own cute little democracy, but trying to survive and seek rescue isn’s all fun and games. Rumours of there being a terrible “beast” started going around, until the boys disintegrated into two groups: a savage hunting tribe led by Jack, a choir-head-turned despot, and Ralph, Simon and Piggy who kept their conscience in check and want a signal fire.
In one particular scene, the boys were dancing their cultish dance to overcome their fear for the storm and the darkness, and the desire to kill took over them,- as Simon, arguably the only likeable character and everyone’s favourite, crawled out of the forest, they mistook him for the beast and stabbed him to death.
I knew Simon would die, but prickles of fear still traveled up my spine.
The novel, with its labyrinthine structure, discusses the origin of evil. The schoolboys did all the killing, be it induced by fear, jealousy or plain savagery. Les Fleurs du Mal (the flowers of evil) bloom within us. Other than the boys, all the elements introduced into the story were symbols-the most iconic image from the story, pig’s head on a stick as a gift for the imaginary beast, represents our pathetic attempts to suppress the fear inside us, an excuse for our innate evil.
Lord of the Flies challenges us to think about the things inside us and what those things compel us to do. When do we experience the loss of innocence, or is there innocence at all? Does evil come from a selfish desire, or is it encrypted in our default settings as human beings?
Perhaps, you would say, Lord of the Flies is after all a depressing high school read. Maybe there is nothing teenagers need to hear more than how they are not mini saints , and that humanity is doomed, because if we end up on an island without Snapchat or school rules, we paint our faces and kill each other. Maybe teenagers need to be reminded that humanity is fragile and we have to be careful not to break the world when we take over the future.
But on a higher level, the value of Lord of the Flies is a warning, rather than a pessimistic prediction. We’re not schoolboys that would screw up if we end up on a deserted island, we are on an island right now. We share the same planet and the same unpredictable nature, the same flowers of evil somewhere inside us.
The fact that evil is inside us shouldn’t be depressing. It tells us that we should be careful, so that no World War, no collective outburst of evil, no civil savagery, would send a group of schoolboys onto an evacuating plane that crashes on a deserted island.