I’m not sure what I expected when I started reading this novel, but I was actually very surprised by my reading experience. Pleasantly so.
Lord of the Flies is such a cultural touchstone, and I thought I knew what I was in for: wild boys, a conch shell, something about Piggy and Ralph, etc. But I was amazed at how much more nuanced and interesting this book is than I anticipated.
I think we all know the story to some extent. Several young boys survive a plane crash on a desert island, and eventually order turns to chaos, as society tends to do. When they first land on the island, the boys do their best to create a society with rule and order, centered around the beautiful conch shell that is used to call assemblies and is also used as a “talking stick,” rendering the holder ultimate authority to speak. Ralph, one of the “big ‘uns,” nominates himself as the Chief, and as the holder of the conch, he kind of has the power by default.
However, there are signs of dissension early on – the main conflict is between “the fire” and “meat.” The fire, on the one hand, is the instrument for the boys’ salvation: it is how they will send smoke signals and get rescued. On the other hand, the boys are hungry and they want meat. They need meat to survive while they’re on the island. And this divide is eventually how the island culture falls to chaos.
All the while, Piggy is on the sidelines asking “What will the grown-ups think?” which is such a funny and innocent question. It’s also easy to imagine what the grown-ups will think. But the irony is that the boys have played out what often happens in “civilized” societies, just on an accelerated timeline.
I was pleasantly surprised by this read, and it makes sense why it’s taught in schools. If you’ve been meaning to read it, might I recommend you do.