Perhaps one of the only people in the world who never read this book in high school, I thought that it was high time that I tested the waters. William Golding has created quite the novel, using young adolescents to develop key societal themes while being isolated from the world. After their plane crashes on a deserted island, the surviving young boys gather to determine how they will survive. Using a conch shell as both a gathering tool and one that denotes speaking power, the boys elect Ralph as their leader. From there, it is a delegation of duties to ensure everything is done, something Ralph discovers is not as easy as he would like. His greatest rival for leadership, Jack, begins to instil distrust and rallies those around him not to fall into line with Ralph. As time progresses, cracks occur in the unified group and they splinter off, with Jack taking some of the older boys into his own ‘savage’ camp. The two groups are forced to devise new ways to procure the needed skills for survival. Ralph agrees to attend a feast held by the saved group, only to discover that they are ruthless and end up killing one of the boys. As outside assistance remains bleak, tough choices will have to be made and the lives of all the boys lay in the ever-shifting balance of power. A clever novel that touches on many important issues and has stood the test of time. Not sure I would call it stellar, but surely worth my time and effort.
I never do well when a book is called a ‘classic’, feeling the pressure is always too high that I should like it. I rarely turn to the classics, finding my enjoyment of reading halted when I am supposed to find themes and symbolism. Then again, I love to learn when I read, something Golding does somewhat subtlety with this piece as he speaks about the roles and differences that adolescent boys have within society. The story is both well-paced and overly detailed in places, as Golding seeks to lay the groundwork for a great deal in short order. Some say the downed airplane was part of a nuclear situation that saw the world on the cusp of World War Three, while others surmised it was just a freak accident that left all the adults dead. By thrusting the boys into the role of leaders, Golding posits that their leadership and follower roles would become more apparent over time, though there is a fine line between leading and dictating. As can be seen throughout the piece, the give and take between Ralph and those under him comes to fruition, causing strife and anxiety, which Jack uses to his advantage. The need to survive also pushes the boys to take drastic measures, something they might not normally do, as has been seen in other books and stories of groups stranded and away from help. The use of longer chapters seems needed for Golding to lay some necessary groundwork on different topics. Rather than a constantly evolving flow to the narrative, he chose to tackle these major issues in a single chapter, forcing the reader to push on to understand the concepts being discussed. I suppose it works, but not the approach I might have taken. There were times I also felt the dialogue was slightly jilted, though I am not sure if that is due to the time it was written or a stylistic choice by Golding. I know the way in which young boys speak has devolved of late, but I kept asking myself if I could properly picture boys bantering and ordering one another around in this way. Golding speaks in the introduction about how boys were the only option, that girls could not have played a role in this piece. While I can see what he means, to a degree, wearing my 2020 glasses and not those from 1954, I think much has changed and would love someone to take a stab at the story from the girl-centric approach. I’m sure it would be a refreshing look at this tale that everyone seems to know.
Kudos, Mr. Golding, for a decent read that kept me thinking throughout.
I never do this, but I recently read a novel that takes some influences from Golding’s piece. Do check it out once it is published:
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons