Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Revisiting a Classic: ‘Lord of the Flies’


“This is our island. It’s a good island. Until the grownups come to fetch us we’ll have fun.”

Once every three months I like to revisit classics from those good ‘ole school days, just to see if they are anything like I remember. Case in point: I read “The Great Gatsby” last year and wondered how I ever considered that a romance novel. Poor Gatsby – reinvents himself and gets involved in illegal stuff just to get a pretty shallow Daisy. Tragic? Yes. Romantic? Not so much.

So with children being such a prominent part of today’s headlines, I decided to pick up “Lord of the Flies,” by William Golding. Let me say straight away that thankfully today’s children have nothing in common with the sad, sad story that is “Lord of the Flies.”

Knowing exactly what happens in this book still did not prepare me for it. Watching the demise of civil, decent young boys was painful; although it can be argued that the story demonstrates when the constraints and rules of society are abandoned people’s true nature show up. Golding is said to have described the book as “an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature,” and that “the shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system.” If that was his aim, then he achieved it through the book.

Our four main characters can be broken down pretty simply: Piggy is reason, Ralph is heart, Jack is evil and Simon is innocence. There are many, many books that employ this narrative but only a handful are as bold as Golding by taking these themes and attributing them to children, and then having these children turn savage. I was riveted by Golding’s audacity as much as I was appalled by the subject.

What I didn’t remember from my first reading was the lyrical descriptions of the island. They were so vivid I could see each lagoon and rock. The island is beautiful and serene, a perfect counterpoint to the violence that happens on it. An eerie, dark island would have diluted the action – its benign gentleness exacerbated the boy’s brutality in a more meaningful way. Another thing to consider is that the island remains the same regardless of what happens upon it – a silent witness.

“Lord of the Flies” is a slim book but I still had a hard time getting through it. I found myself reading with detachment, clinically analyzing it as a means to diffuse the severe subject matter. But when I finished it and sat pondering its relevance to today, I came to the realization that the book is dated. Sure, the bad and good of human nature as defined in “Lord of the Flies” can be found today. But the idea that a bunch of 21st century kids wouldn’t know how to survive on an island was difficult to wrap my head around. Have you seen how kids navigate their way around the world? Someone would have read somewhere that if you strike a rock at an 11-degree angle after coating it in sea water, you can maintain the life of your cell phone and call down a signal from an orbiting satellite. Then another one would have seen on the “Kids Baking Champion” that tubers make an excellent starch and paired with dandelion greens can be quite edible. And when’s the last time you saw kids waiting for an adult to come and do things for them. Unless it’s laundry or cleaning. Then they can wait all day. I’m not saying there wouldn’t be struggles but it just seems to me that kids are a bit savvier today. I’d love to talk with a group of them after reading this book to gage their thoughts.

In the end, it’s this quote that sold me on the dated idea: “We did everything adults would do. What went wrong?” I’m not sure I see today’s kids doing everything adults would do. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all.

I’m finishing up two current bestsellers and look forward to talking about them next time!

Lynn Alexander is a recently published author and long-time book, food, cat and college football lover (Go Green!). Her career journey started in upstate New York, writing and recording commercials for radio. She moved to Venice, Florida to manage a restaurant which led her to Naples and Marco in 2002, where she currently books weddings and events at the Marco Beach Ocean Resort. Alexander is a Leadership Marco 2015 alum which fed her passion for history and learning. A butterfly at parties but a loner at heart, she loves nothing more than baking yummy desserts then retreating to a quiet corner to read.

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