Lord of the Flies by William Golding
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
William Golding powerfully depicts the depravity of human nature in this story of a group of boys stranded on a desert island. They form a society with rules and order and a chief, represented by a seashell (conch). But from the beginning they have lost one boy. And things unravel from there. Humanity’s inexorable tendency to hurt and kill is fearfully unleashed.
While the boys fear a beast who may be roaming the island, the beast winds up being the boys themselves. Golding uses the phrase “Lord of the Flies” only in one scene that I remember. When the hunters leave the head of a pig on a stick, as a sacrifice to the beast, Simon sees it later covered with flies, and imagines the beast speaking to him. Its ugly words make clear that the beast isn’t “something you can hunt and kill” but is “part of you” (133).
Teachers like assigning this book in junior high or high school, which means many know of it, and groan with disgust and dislike on remembering the heavy and depressing theme. We do not like to stare our sin and depravity in the face. But God made Israel look, in the sacrifices He requires in the temple. He makes us look at the price, guilt and ugliness of sin, at the cross of Jesus Christ. We need to see it.
But Golding offers no real solution to defeat the Lord of the Flies (Beelzebub, in Greek). The boys’ savior is a naval officer with a sub-machine gun on his boat. Golding says the officer represents the adult version of the boys. They are hunting Ralph, the main character, at the end, while the officer is hunting another man, also to kill. At the end Ralph weeps “for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart” (186-187).
We can also weep, but must look beyond this book to the Lord of Life who defeated Beelzebub, and offers to restore the violent soul. To resurrect the dead ones. He swallows up death and depravity, leaving light and joyful life in its place.
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