Marshmallow has been reading some classics on and off. Today she talks to Sprinkles about Lord of the Flies by William Golding, first published in 1954.
Sprinkles: So Marshmallow, it’s been years since I have read this book. So can you tell me a bit about what it’s about?
Marshmallow: Sure. This book is about a couple dozen British school boys whose plane crashlands on a deserted island. The boys try to set some rules and they use a conch that sort of represents order and civility. One of the boys named Ralph is elected leader, and another boy named Jack takes on hunting duties. The boys start a fire so that there will be smoke for ships to see.
As the story progresses, Ralph tries to encourage the boys to make shelter and keep the fire going. So basically what is essentially logical to do given the circumstances. But most of the other boys do not obey him and start to act like feral animals. At some point they start thinking that there is a beast in the island and they are terrified. Jack promises to hunt it down. And hunting and killing animals makes the boys become wilder and more violent and bloodthirsty, and eventually most of the boys join Jack and his hunters, which becomes a separate tribe than Ralph’s group. And they come into conflict, and things escalate very quickly after that.
S: Okay, I think this is a good summary of the plot and some of what happens in the book. Before saying much about what happens in the end, can you tell me if you thought it was tied up well?
M: I am not sure I’d say it was tied up, but the message of the book was well delivered and the moral is conveyed. The story is probably not really finalized. But it ends in a way that is still satisfying.
S: Though not quite happy, right?
M: Well, I can’t say too much without spoiling everything. But some things happen in the book that make it kind of impossible for a fully happy ending.
S: I do remember some of the book and definitely agree with you there. So what is this message or the moral you are talking about? Can you tell us that?
M: I think the moral of the book is that when humans are left to their devices there is potential for great evil. The children represent untouched innocence, but they eventually go feral and become morally corrupt. I think the author was probably trying to depict the violent side of humans and that it can lead them towards evil. The boys’ hunting leads to further violence and bloodthirst.
S: But how come do human societies ever go beyond violence then if humans left to their devices can easily go feral? There had to be some time that some humans decided to do things differently.
M: I think that the author is not claiming this always happens. I think that he is trying to show that there is a potential in humans for this kind of darkness, that there is a dark side of human nature.
S: Okay, that is heavy stuff. Tell me about the writing a bit. Did you think the author made the island visually come alive? Could you see the locations? How about the boys and how they looked and behaved? Could you visualize them?
M: Yes, but I think he focused a lot more on how they felt and their emotions and their transformation through the story. It is more psychological than physical descriptions, I’d say.
S: So would you say the characters were vividly created? Or were they more like archetypes, like Jack representing the violent tendencies and Ralph perhaps representing the inclination for law and order?
M: Well, I am not sure individual characters represented specific characteristics. In fact I think nobody represented a specific vice or virtue, because they all were pretty fleshed out as real people, who were basically mixed in virtue and vice. But you could see some changed in different ways than others.
S: Alright. That makes sense. So how did this book make you feel after you read it? It is a bit of a dark book, don’t you think?
M: Yes. Just as a narrative, just as a story, it is good, maybe like an adventure that has gone bad. But when you think about the ideas behind it, it enhances the reading experience. It definitely made me think about human nature. And I like that. And it is a classic so that is another reason why people should read it.
S: Did you know that about a decade after this book was published, a similar thing actually happened and a bunch of boys were stranded in an island by themselves? They did not become feral however, and they actually built a functioning mini-society.
M: I did not know that before we checked out the Wikipedia article for the book. but again, I think the book is not claiming this has to happen this way, but that there is a possibility that humans might give in to their violent and dark tendencies.
S: I guess so. The story of the Tongan boys makes me a lot more optimistic, but Golding’s book, even though I know it is fiction, is always a reminder for me that civil behavior or a safe and functioning society are not automatic or natural.
M: I’d agree.
S: Okay Marshmallow. Let us wrap this up. How would you rate this book?
S: Wow! You liked it that much! Cool. I do recall it being one of my favorite books from high school, too, though I cannot bring myself to read it again, because I worry I’d get too depressed.
M: Well, then you can always reread the real story of what happened ot those Tongan boys.
S: You are right! Anyways, what do you want to tell our readers?
M: Stay tuned for more amazing book reviews from the book bunnies!