Lord of the Flies has been on my “To-Read” list ever since I first studied about it way back in FYBA…I went onto graduate, complete my Masters and a Diplome Superieur in French, before I finally picked it up. And once I did, I found it difficult to put it down unfinished. Deepak once remarked that it’s a book to be devoured in one go, a slim novel that has you engrossed in the twists and turns of its plot as soon as you have commenced reading it. With most books, it takes time to settle into the intricacies of the plot and familiarize yourself with the labyrinth of its plot – not so with this one. Golding didn’t have much time to waste with this slim novel and so he mesmerizes in the first page itself.
Golding had described the theme of the book as “an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature.” And so with Ralph, Piggy and Jack leading the way you enter the ravines of an isolated island where a plane carrying children has crashed. Left to survive on their own wits, the children choose their leader, divide themselves into groups (Biguns and Littluns, hunters, fire-protectors and so on) and struggle to survive on the island. Not surprising is the conflict between the strongest of them, the hunger and the eventual fight for power, that assumes greater importance once the initial charm of their adventure has flickered out.
The title, weaned from a Hebrew symbol for the Devil, and thus decay, demoralization, destruction, hysteria and panic, fits the theme perfectly. Apart from this symbol, the many allegories, in what seems at surface level an adventure story, reveal Golding’s supreme control over his form and matter.
Disturbing and terrifying at times, almost gruesome in certain portions, yet the novel is beautifully written and held me rapt till its climactic end.
Would I recommend it? Definitely – if it is already on your list, bump it up; if not, shove it in the top-ten!
P.S. My Penguin copy of the novel includes a critical note at the end, by E.L.Epstein that not only analyses the novel but also draws very interesting parallels with another classic “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad. If you can lay your hands on that, then go for it.