Book in Review: Lord of the Flies

Do you ever wonder "what is wrong with the world?" Do you ever ask yourself what drives people to do such heinous crimes? How could you not? The most rudimentary glance at the conditions of things around us will reveal that humanity is a total wreck: Terrorism, crime, genuine bigotry, greed--let's just say are not collectively hurting for time on the news cycle. Everywhere we look it seems there is another atrocity further desensitizing us to its evil, and the recent memory of the bloody 20th century only further adds to the evidence  that things are bad here.

But everyone knows things are bad here. The question is: why is it this way?

William Golding's famous "Lord of the Flies" I believe seeks to answer that question. The story starts very curiously, with a sizeable number of English boys ranging from ages 6-12 are trapped on a coral island. There are no adults, and the island is relatively livable as there is fruit a plenty and pigs for meat. Innocently enough, the ordeal begins with the boys electing the charismatic and likeable Ralph to lead their democratic society. There are rules: the boys need shelter, they need food, the need water--but perhaps most importantly the boys need to maintain a smoke signal if they are to have any hope of escape. Things are all well and good.

But how this book begins is not how it ends, as talk of a mysterious beast propels the boys into the shackles of fear. Things start to fall apart. Order crumbles. Brutal pig hunts find success. Division ensues. And before you know it, the good English schoolboys that began on the island are as forgotten as the memories of home. One perceptive youth on the island suggests: "Maybe it's (the beast) only us."

Golding's classic surely garners another reading from myself as its sociological and political implications are abundant. But perhaps more revealing to me is Golding's profound commentary on humanity--or what is within humanity at its deepest core. His conclusions are more disturbing than flattering. Though it may be cloaked by laws and restrained by culture, the crux of "Lord of the Flies" is emphatic: The beast is inside each of us. The evil is us. And it is not pretty.

"What is wrong with the world" you ask? Well, to quote G.K. Chesterton: "I am"

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