How do I begin? Let me just start by saying that this book is an like absolutely beautiful picture that takes you in and makes you gaze at it for a long time with a certain affinity that slowly turns to an uncomfortable unease, eventually leaving you perturbed and disturbed when you realize that it conceals within it, a deep sorrow.
A group of school boys are marooned on a island due to a plane crash and are left to themselves. Without any adults to watch over them and to guide them, they let their instincts to take over.
And as it usually is said to be, instinct is a very good thing. It lets them abandon all concerns and just do what they feel like. It sets them free of guilt and worry, because what they’re doing is just ‘instinctive’. This instinctive behavior is fueled by the rebellious nature of the kids who, unsurprisingly, want to be kids and not adults. Despite the wise words of Piggy and the gentle, yet firm leadership of Ralph urging them towards reason, they choose to drift to the other side; led by the daring and anathematic Jack. What happens in this chaotic anti-thesis of civilization, forms the bulk of the story.
The story is symbolism at its best, with the beginning being the blowing of the conch to signal order and the tipping point being the shattering of Piggy’s glasses, a brilliant symbol for the disintegration of brittle society. Throughout the story, the boys are searching for a beast on the island, the ‘Lord of the Flies’ aka Beezlebub, a mistranslated and mistransliterated epithet for the Devil; only to find it in the most unlikely of places. This is again beautifully symbolic of the human approach to life; of how we are always looking in the wrong places.
The story ends on a somewhat optimistic note, but sadly we as a civilization might not have such an ending. Nevertheless, William Golding has painted the most beautiful picture with words and the picture is more than just that. It is more than the superficial veneer of a story, it a revelation. This is what he says about the theme of the story –
The theme is an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature. The moral is that the shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system however apparently logical or respectable. – William Golding on Lord of the Flies
He does more than that. He achieves brilliance with a simple tale about kids and not one of the exquisite commentaries of his look out of place – see for yourself in the excerpts. Everything is just what it should be and everything has its own pace. The story is fantastic, the characters are real and the setting is fabulous. There’s nothing quite like a dystopian castaway story. So, do read it!
Rating – 8/10 (Brilliant)
P.S. Try to get the book with E.L. Epstein’s brilliant afterword. You can also read it here if you don’t find it anywhere else. But please don’t read it before you read the book.