Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

I am unsure of what to write. I read Lord of the Flies for the second time because I thought I had to; I thought that there would be a four-week space at the end of the freshman year with nothing to be read. As it turns out, that space is three weeks, which is not long enough to read anything like Lord of the Flies, or just about anything at all, except for Of Mice and Men, which, of course, they just read. No help there.

But enough about my issues. I liked this book only slightly more than I did when I read it last. I still agree with much of what I wrote in the review, especially about the characters. Ralph is nuanced, but he's boring; Jack and Piggie, the other two main characters seem awfully one-note. There is a fourth character I forgot to mention: Simon. Simon is caught in the conflict between Ralph and Jack for the allegiance of the marooned boys, and becomes the island's second casualty when Jack and his followers' bloodthirsty pantomime of hunting overtakes their senses and they rip Simon apart like a wild pig. (The first casualty is a boy caught in an unchecked fire in the book's first chapters. Metaphor ahoy!)

What I appreciate a bit more this time around is the way that Golding balances the political with the psychological. I said that "the symbols are hit too hard," but that's uncharitable. Yes, Jack might represent fascism, but that's reductive; this isn't Animal Farm with its clear analogue for the proletariat, and its Trotsky-pig and Stalin-pig. Instead, Jack, Ralph, and Piggie represent psychological and behavioral impulses that pull at the strictures of society. Lord of the Flies isn't an identifiable political allegory--it doesn't become a history lesson when you read it in class, like Animal Farm does so easily--but an investigation into the way that society is strengthened and dissembled by our inmost natures. (In fact, if those three fit any symbols too neatly, it is that Jack is the id, Ralph the ego, and Piggie the superego! I am embarrassed that this escaped me the last time around).

So, that's all that I have to say about Lord of the Flies. Though it's not my favorite, I will admit that it is better than every single book I have to teach my freshmen this year. That's me--instilling a distaste for literature, one student at a time.

1 comment:

Brent Waggoner said...

Simon is the best character, for my money.