Monday, March 11, 2019

"Lord of the Flies" by William Golding

I read this back in high school, like so many of you probably have.  I hated it.  Hated it in the, "Why does this exist, why did I have to read it, and how soon can I forget it?" way I hated Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.  

But I've been wondering about Lord of the Flies lately.  During my thirties, I've re-read and re-watched books and movies I disliked in my teens and early twenties and discovered that I now like a lot of them.  Even love some of them.  So I wondered if this had also suffered the "I'm not ready for this book" problems that had plagued my initial readings of The Old Man and the Sea and The Great Gatsby, which I now very much enjoy.

Also, I'm a big fan of Lost, and I knew that the writers had credited this book as being an inspiration for the show.  I mean, my beloved Sawyer even mentions it at least once within the show itself.  So... I decided it was time to give it another go.

I still hate it.

Actually, maybe I don't hate it.  Maybe I just... find it heavy-handed.  I read it this month for the 9th-grade literature course I'm teaching at our homeschool co-op, and during our discussion for this book, I realized what is probably the main reason I don't care for this book.  It's supposed to make you all shocked and startled that oh my goodness, these boys are acting like savages -- are people inherently evil or something? And... thanks to my Biblical understanding of human nature, that's not a shocker.  That's something I already knew.  Romans 3:10 reminds us, "There is no one who is righteous; no, not one."  Psalm 51:5 says, "Surely I am sinful from birth; sinful from the time my mother conceived me."  So Golding spends lots and lots of time convincing us of something I didn't need convincing of.

Plus, it's so loaded with Important Symbols.  I really don't like obvious or heavy-handed symbolism in my books.  Give me instead writers like Tolkien, whose symbols function perfectly within the story whether you see them as symbolic or not.

So, yeah.  Like with Of Mice and Men, I'm agreeing with my teenage self that this book is not one I enjoy, like, or want to spend any more time thinking about.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: a hard PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, mild bad language, and creepy scenes.


This is my 29th book read and reviewed for my second time through with the Classics Club.

16 comments:

  1. Awwww.

    I'm just glad we have so many other books we can agree on. ;)

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    1. Eva, yeah, sorry. But yes, definitely we have plenty of other worthy things to discuss and agree on and fangirl over :-)

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  2. Yup, I hated it too. Now you read it for the second time and I don't have to. I have never read Of Mice and Men but I did read East of Eden a few years ago and hated that.

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    1. Jennifer, yeah. I was thinking maybe I just didn't "get" it as a teen, and I'd like it better now? But nope. Not my thing.

      I haven't read East of Eden. I did read another Steinbeck, Tortilla Flat, and I didn't like it either. But I want to read The Grapes of Wrath still, mostly because I own my grandpa's copy with his name written inside it. He was an Iowa farmer who lived through the Depression, and I figure if he owned a copy of the book, obviously read it, and even put his name in it, it must be worth my time to read once.

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  3. Oh, I hated this book in high school too! I found it really disturbing and didn't want to dwell on it. :( I appreciate reading your thoughts on it the second time around, and I have a feeling I'd probably feel the same too. I mentioned this book and the reminder of children being cruel and sinful in the first discussion post for the read-along of Emily of New Moon I'm hosting. It's so sad but true! And yet, I don't feel the need to read Lord of the Flies again. ;)

    Thanks for the great post!

    ~Amber

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    1. Amber, oh, that's interesting that you could connect it to Emily of New Moon that way! I haven't read the Emily books for years -- I should revisit them. I do get that he was making the point that kids aren't all little angels, and I agree with him there, but... he belabors his point, or something.

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  4. That's disappointing. This was one book (like Mice and Men) which I hated in school but thought I'd like as an adult. I believe I read somewhere that Golding was trying to respond to and counteract a philosophy put forward in his time that children were inherently good and that it was their upbringing, circumstances and surroundings that made them turn to evil. But if his treatment was heavy-handed, even though the premise is interesting, it wouldn't make the book better. Sigh! Oh well! I'm going to give it a go sometime but with less optimism. Thanks for the review!

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    1. Cleo, yeah, I can definitely see that he was trying to counteract that "humanistic" idea that people are good inside and it's outside forces that make them go bad. I think he just... overdoes things, maybe? It's not like it's a terrible book that I think no one should read, I just cannot like it. Maybe you will have a more positive time with it! I do know people who really like it.

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  5. Nice review. I had the same reaction as you..."Golding, tell us something we don't know." I actually liked the book, although I agree the story is unsettling and troubling, like Of Mice and Men. I remember finding all kinds of moral things to talk about in my review, such as how man is always struggling between good and evil, right and wrong, law and order and violent power...but the point is, which will we choose to follow? Our inner beast or moral law and order? Anyway, I just had fun tearing it apart, but it is still a disturbing story.

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    1. Ruth, yes, it definitely has cool moral things in it. But... it's preachy. I don't like preachy things. I love a story to have a moral or a lesson -- that's sort of the point of fiction, to help us learn things in new ways. But don't shove it down my throat. And that's what it feels like here, even though I actually agree with him!

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  6. This is one of my favorite books, yet I can see why some people dislike, even hate it. It's really dark and disturbing. However, I see it more as a reminder (through the character of Ralph) to always strive to listen to our conscience, to be brave and always maintain hope, though "the world" do the opposite and even hate/attact us.

    And, is it possible that Golding might have originally targetted young readers for this book (hence the symbols?) Just a thought, anyway...

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    1. Fanda, it wasn't really the dark and disturbing things I didn't like. Yes, there's a creepiness going on, with the dead pilot and the dead boar's head, and the killings of several characters. But it was more the preachy moralizing I didn't like, if that makes sense. Even teens don't need to have the lessons of their stories written on big signboards in neon, which is a bit how this felt to me.

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  7. Ugh--I hated this book too. I totally agree that Golding was super heavy handed in the symbolism, and I could not stand the long descriptions.

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    1. Kara, interesting! I actually wasn't bothered by the descriptions, which I often get very bored by. But the too-overt symbolism and overall preachy tone just... were not my thing.

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  8. Lord of the Flies = interesting but not great. Of Mice and Men = boring and over rated; The Great Gatsby is in the same category. However, I thought that I was alone in those opinions.

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    1. Stanley, I've grown to really admire Gatsby, but not the others :-) I thought I was alone in those opinions for a long time too!

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