This is a novel I have very mixed opinions about. Firstly, I’ll give you a brief account of the plot. A plane load of school boys crash land on an uninhabited island and must fend for themselves in terms of food, shelter and getting rescued. Ralph from the beginning seems like the natural leader of the group with no surviving adults around. Piggy, a chubby and often teased boy wants to befriend Ralph and finds the conche, which later becomes a signal for all of the boy’s respect, until the end where it is broken. The conche is very symbolic of the boys power struggles, just as their clothing and dirtiness is symbolic of their decline into savagery. All this imagery I found very dramatic and engaging.
The boys slowly decline and become brutal towards one another as well as the sows, when it quickly becomes apparent that the boys do not all have the same intentions. In boyish naivety some of them are more focused on painting mud on their cheeks and killing pigs than being rescued. This subsequently divides to the tribe in two, to the extent that they wage war on one another. This really was the most climatic part of the novel for me as you become shockingly aware as a reader that it could easily end in a blood bath with no-one making it out alive. This element truly had me on the edge of my seat and I was enthused to find out the ending, thought it disappointed me a tad. I decided after some thought that the ending, without wanting to give too much away, was too simplistic after such a savage and complex read. When I say complex however, I mean purely in terms of philosophical questions regarding human nature and the moral code of children without adult influence; the loss of innocence. In every other way the novel is very simplistic; an easy read, with no complicated language or plot lines. In ways it was such a simplistic novel that I found myself partly disappointed. It would seemed almost a children’s book if it were not so dark and savage. Then again, you have to remember that the author, William Golding, taught children at an all boys school and it is now a common GCSE text (UK). I have no idea what age group this was meant for but I feel it doesn’t really fit anywhere.
Having said all this, I did enjoy the novel, it was simply not at all what I expected. I would recommend it, mainly to anyone aged 12 to 18 but that’s a small window, a real let down of the text.
P.s The 1963 version is a very interesting film and it was created with an impromptu script. This means the children were not given a script of dialogue to memorise and repeat but were simply given outlines of the story and each scene so they could take it in whatever manner they wished. At the same time as creating a film this was quite an interesting philosophical experiment which changed the lives of some of the cast forever. They’re hard to find but there are some interesting interviews online about how the actors, now in adulthood, reflect on their experiences. The common feeling throughout these interviews is that the actors were shocked at how easily and abruptly the cast were turning on each other and forming ‘gangs’ amongst themselves, in much the same way as the characters in the novel. It seems it truly is damaging for children not to have adult influence in their lives.