Imagine a dead child. His eyes are huge in his small face, his hair disarrayed. He is still bleeding. He lies on a beach, waves skimming his cold feet. Depressed? Creeped out yet? You should be. Lord of the Flies is an amazing book, not because of its depressing storyline or disturbing imagery, but because of its timeless theme and the haunting impression it leaves on the reader. WARNING: HUGE SPOILERS FOR LORD OF THE FLIES AHEAD. READ AT YOUR OWN PERIL.
Lord of the Flies is not applicable for all ages. At many different instances during reading, the reader may feel nauseated or shocked by the violent behavior of the children on the island. During the final real confrontation between Ralph and Jack, the main characters of the book, we are given a highly detailed account of Piggy’s death.
“Piggy fell forty feet and landed on his back across the square red rock in the sea. His head opened and stuff came out and turned red. Piggy’s arms and legs twitched a bit, like a pig’s after it has been killed. Then the sea breathed again in a long, slow sigh, the water boiled white and pink over the rock; and when it went, sucking back again, the body of Piggy was gone” (Golding, 181).
The scene is drawn out and dramatized, almost as if in slow motion. Later, it is strongly implied that a pair of the smaller boys on the island, twins named Sam and Eric, were tortured for not joining Jack’s tribe from the beginning. “The prodding became rhythmic. Sam yelled. ‘That’s not the way’ Roger edged past the chief, only just avoiding pushing him with his shoulder. The yelling ceased, and Samneric lay looking up in quiet terror. Roger advanced upon them as one wielding a nameless authority” (Golding, 182). Young children were torturing other children in order to punish and control them.
This is not a book you would read for fun or to feel good. It is depressing. Within the first two chapters, a “shrimp of a boy, about six years old” (Golding, 35) dies in a forest fire. We can only assume he burned to death, because the other boys never find his body. Before he dies, that little boy mentions a “snake-thing”, a “beastie” (Golding, 35). At first, the boys dismiss his fear, but after the little boy dies, they begin to believe the beast is real and fear it themselves. Simon, one of the boys, discovers proof that it is imaginary, and goes to tell everyone. Before he can though, he is mistaken for the beast and the boys “leapt upon [Simon], screamed, struck, bit, tore”(Golding, 153). They killed him. So the boys go on fearing the beast, because they had murdered the only one who knew the truth.
The book’s ending also sucks. The boys are rescued, but now must return to a world that will never understand them or the ordeal they have been through. This is evidenced by the words of their rescuer: “I should have thought that a pack of British boys… would have been able to put up a better show than that” (Golding, 202). He honestly believes that a thing like nationality would matter in a life or death situation, like that would somehow help them. He sees that Ralph is a “little scarecrow” (Golding, 201) and that some of the boys are only “tiny tots… with the distended bellies of small savages” (201) and doesn’t think of how hard it must have been for them, to come to look like that, but chastises them for not doing better. The boys are going to a whole world of people who will react to them just like the officer is here.
In spite of these flaws, or maybe because of them, Lord of the Flies is a classic. Its lack of a set time period or context in history makes it applicable for kids today and 50 years from now. The story arguably must be so graphic for the readers to understand the scope and tragedy that is the boys’ trial on the island. We must see the events on the island the way the characters do, up close and personal. And the book’s theme of the fall of man and reason can hardly be portrayed by having a cheerful tale of unicorns frolicking though a meadow. Such a dark message can only be conveyed with darkness.
Lord of the Flies is not a pleasant book. It is creepy, and you should never pick it up if you are looking for an entertaining read. It is however, an amazing story that will last the ages, with its lack of a set era and fascinating theme. Even though it may be required reading for school, and we all know how those books tend to make us want to put out our eyes with a pencil, I still highly recommend you read it.