‘Maybe there is a beast… maybe it’s only us…’
I recently wrote about how I had put off watching The Wicker Man because it is so ubiquitous within popular culture that I foolishly assumed that I already knew what it was all about. Similarly, I have never bothered to read Lord of the Flies for the same reason. Some kids get deserted on a decent island, something to do with a pig, the fat kid has a bad time…
Clearly there is way more to William Golding’s classic than that however or it couldn’t have endured for so long. In the end, two things persuaded me to read Lord of the Flies. Firstly, a fellow teacher told me they were working their way through the classics which made me think twice about my decision to read books exclusively written for teenagers, and secondly, I happened to read that Lord of the Flies is high on the list of the American Library Associations most banned books in schools – surely a seal of quality if ever there is one.
Fleeing an unspecified war, a group of unruly schoolboys are stranded on a desert island. Two leaders emerge in Ralph; a conscientious and level headed young man, and Jack, a hot headed and stubborn boy. Hilarity definitely does not ensue.
As a teacher, I spend all day picking texts apart for a deeper meaning so when I read a book at home, I am careful to only read on a very surface level. As I have a monkey brain, it is easy for me to ignore any sniff of allegory, metaphor or hidden message in an attempt to just enjoy the story. Animal Farm is just a charming book about some animals right?
With that in mind, I deeply loved Lord of the Flies. I knew about it’s prestigious reputation of course but what I didn’t know was how well written the classic novel is or how accurately Golding captures the uncertain way in which boys speak to each other. In providing such a precise and authentic deep dive into childhood, Golding has created a book that is utterly timeless.
Despite what I said earlier about my pathetic monkey brain, one message from Lord of the Flies is impossible to miss. The idea that somewhere deep inside of everyone, a darkness lurks. This uncomfortable truth is probably what has led Lord of the Flies to be banned in so many schools. It is also the reason why it should be taught in every school.