Lord of The Flies–Or you know, post apocalyptic YA fiction before that was even a category–William Golding

Anyone who knows me, knows that I do love some apocalyptic literature.  And lately, the place to find the good ones, I mean the really amazing ones on everything from zombies to bombs, is YA fiction. 

I first read Lord of the Flies while in high school.  For an English class.  Because it was YA fiction (from a time where YA fiction was just a few little books floating sadly in the literary classification and genre worlds).  And I was a YA. 

I loved it.  It was bloody and had kids behaving badly.  It was like the anti-thesis of what they mostly want you to read and do in the hallowed halls of educational institutions.  Oddly, thinking about it, Catcher in the Rye by Salinger is also about kids behaving badly.  Which is also taught in high school English classes.  Students will often love one or the other or both books.  Then we like to squash that love by making them sit still in their chairs and fill in bubbles with a #2 pencil for hours on end.  Oh, the irony.

Anyway, I would tell you which authors listed Lord of The Flies but I can’t find the book.  Earlier, Amelia spent 20 minutes looking for her blankie.  It ended up being on the bathroom counter, where she had set it earlier in the evening.  You know, the first place one would _assume_ a blankie had gotten left.  I went to write my blog post and looked around for The Top Ten.  I didn’t find it.  I spent one minute looking, but due to looking for items burn out, stopped doing it.  If you really are curious, leave me a comment and I will edit this post after I find the book.  Or Dave could be nice and leave it in comments too. 

Ok.  So I totally re-read Lord of the Flies this week.  And I am completely glad I did so.  I was remembering the book all jumbled up, and the things I was thinking happened, did not indeed happen.  So.  There we go.

My thoughts on the book.

1.  Throughout my life, even prior to this blog, I’ve read a lot of children’s literature that was written prior to 1990.  Since this blog, I’ve _re-read_ some children’s literature written prior to 1990.  There is a certain narrative style that is used a lot in the genre. 

“There was no place for standing on one’s head.  This time Ralph expressed the intensity of his emotion by pretending to knock Simon down; and soon they were happy, heaving pile in the under-dusk”.

“But not “come on” to the top.  The assault on the summit must wait while the three boys accepted this challenge. The rock was as large as a small motor car”.

“Not for five minutes could they drag themselves away from this triumph.”

“Suddenly Piggy was a bubble with decorous excitement”.

I don’t know if anyone else notices, but authors from the time of ago liked to make children sound like puppies.  Even in adult literature, they can often sound this way.  When I read Woolf a few weeks back, sometimes children in her book sounded the same as well.

The thing that makes it interesting?  By the end of the book, Golding has dispensed with narrating like that.  He moves the narrative style into a terse example of the horror that it has all become.

2.  The boys were on a plane (or boat, I can’t remember).  It was fleeing the scene of war, World War III to be exact.  But the thing is, Golding doesn’t _tell_ you that.  Narrative details from the boys tells you that.  So, in the beginning, there’s only a vague idea of what has happened to bring these boys here.  Hardly any details about the war are known.  And by the end, not many more are.  Which makes sense.  The narration is all done third person, but all of the people the book is narrating?  They’re children.  Even the oldest are only barely into their teens (or maybe even just 12).  Why would they know the political upheavals and the battles being fought et cetera.  So, Golding was brilliant for that.

3.  It’s amusing to have the boys think that adults would know what to do to keep their society from falling apart.  When what they think adults would do, are the things that adults can’t manage to do.  The things that probably led to the very war that they were fleeing from.

“Grownups know things,” said Piggy.  “They ain’t afraid of the dark.  They’d meet and have tea and discuss.  Then things ‘ud be all right–“

“They wouldn’t set fire to the island.  Or lose–“

“They’d build a ship–“

The three boys stood in the darkness, striving unsuccessfully to convey the majesty of adult life.

“They wouldn’t quarrel–“

“Or break my specs–“

“Or talk about a beast–“.

4.  Golding is brilliant at highlighting the moment when one of the main characters has lost his leadership, Ralph, and another Jack has obtained it.  Ralph wanted all the “grownup” things, to keep a fire going for smoke signaling, to build shelters to protect themselves and the “littleuns”.  Jack wanted to hunt.  That was it.  Hunt.  Well, through political upheavals and the presence of freshly killed pork, most of the group go over to Jack.  Who sets about basically going insane and going “native”. 

“”Tomorrow,” went on the chielf, “we shall hunt again.”

He pointed at this savage and that with his spear.

“Some of you will stay here to improve the cave and defend the gate.  I shall take a few hunters with me and bring back meat.  The defenders of the gate will see that the others don’t sneak in.”

A savage raised his hand and the chief turned a bleak, painted face toward him.

“Why should they try to sneak in, Chief?”

The chief was vague but earnest.

“They will.  They’ll try to spoil things we do.  So the watchers at the gate must be careful.  And then–“

The chief paused.  They saw a triangle of startling pink dart out, pass along his lips and vanish again.”

Notice that not once during that exchange is the “chief” referred to as Jack.  Or the savages by name? Yeah.

5.  Jack partly manages to gain power over Ralph through the use of fear.  Also, the bond that is forged when the boys, carried away by hunting and fear do something absolutely horrific.  Much like prior dictators in history have done.

Lord of the Flies is not a long novel at all.  In fact, it’s almost a novella.  But Golding packs more into it than a lot of novelists do with an extra 900 pages longer.  Lord of the Flies is not only valuable due to the quality of the story, but also due to the quality of the novel form.

Golding narrows down the narrative tighter and tighter until you are forced along to the end, your mind’s eyes not spared a single moment of gazing at the horror.

Again, glad I read it.  And definitely recommend it!

2 responses to “Lord of The Flies–Or you know, post apocalyptic YA fiction before that was even a category–William Golding

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