Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, depicts a story in which a group of young boys get left on an island and are left to deal with humanity and the loss of adult supervision.
In writing this book, Golding shows the imperfections of society by going back to the faults of human nature itself. Golding displays the defects of human nature in each of the characters he introduces. An example of the defect of greed and power hungriness is shown in Jack, who eventually usurps the leadership of Ralph, who represents the sensible leader. In creating characters with flaws that everyone has, Golding invokes a sense of self disgust, but also a hope to be better than the characters in the book.
Although there are protagonists and antagonists, Golding writes in such a real and believable way, creating protagonist and antagonist sides to each character, that even if some of the boys might lean more to one side or another it is difficult for the reader to put a label on them. Throughout, the reader questions the decisions of the main characters, trying to figure out who they are, but it soon gets to a point where it is very difficult to take in the decisions the boys make. Life for the school boys will never be the same, as innocence is lost to them forever, whether they are ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
In many ways this book is about the end of moral thought, and the beginning of uncivilized or amoral behavior. This is symbolized at a crucial turning point when Piggy’s glasses are broken effectively symbolizing the end of rules, and throwing knowledge out the window. Throughout the book, the Beast is a creature or thing that is feared, but is never fully exposed. It represents the abstract concept of death, hate, fear, horror, and for the smaller boys it is a monster; for the Beast is really the devil inside us. Even the title of the book; Lord of the Flies relates to this theme. In Hebrew, Lord of the Flies is generally seen as a translation of “Ba’al Zvuv,” which means Satan. In using a symbol of Satan as the title of his book, Golding invokes a sense of dread until the end, when it is realized that what Golding has written could easily be a real story and the horrors that come with that thought.
One of the themes in Lord of the Flies is that human nature is naturally brutal and vicious. Golding also implies that there is not even hope for redemption given the human tendency to obliterate everything good in our selves. He shows this by killing the ‘good’ characters in brutal, disgusting, pitiful, spiteful ways. Then, with only a few pages left in the book, a solider shows up and takes them aboard his cruiser. However, the cruiser will be hunting other people in the same way the boys did, and who will save the adult and his cruiser?
This book takes place during an unspecified war. Golding does not specify which war, but it can be assumed that Golding could have meant Lord of the Flies to take place during World War II. The events that happened during that war, like the holocaust, are echoed in the themes of Lord of the Flies. This is shown in the book by the abuse of Piggy and other boys for being different (like the Jews) and the deterioration into savagery and killing other human beings (which happened in the prison camps). This mirrors some of the things that happened during the Holocaust and the events surrounding WW-II are one of the reasons that readers are haunted by the themes in the book; because they represent the very real horror of hate, spite and hunger for power.
While reading Lord of the Flies, it is obvious that the themes are dark and parts of the book are genuinely gruesome. However, though many people think its dark themes are too intense for adolescents, it is because it stands true and shows humanity so bare that we cannot escape, that it has been named an A-list book. It is because it is impossible to be naive and innocent forever in the world that we live in today that this book remains so important.
In the end, this book is not some fantasy adventure about school boys on an island. Lord of the Flies is a symbolic book that shows just how badly astray a stabilized system can go, based on the faults of human nature, and the weak moral fiber of the individual.