There are dystopian novels that extend human nature into something that they might not even realise they are afraid of. And then there are books like “Lord of the flies” by William Golding. Golding first published the book in 1954, and it did not do very well in terms of sales. But the book gained popularity in the coming years, the book became a literary accomplishment and was required to be read in most high schools and colleges, and I suppose that was not without reason.
The book opens with a seemingly bizarre beginning, and we directly find ourselves immersed in the story. A plane (apparently during a wartime evacuation), crashes at an inhabited island. Surprisingly, the reader finds out that the only people stranded on the island are young children, as young as six years old. Most of them are pre-adolescents, who find themselves without adult supervision, alone on an island with a group of various half-individuals.
It is difficult to read a book which gives you an insight into a mind that you generally have no idea about. If someone had asked me how children might behave, and what kind of a community will they create without much conscious thought, then I would most likely be speechless. Children are thoughtless, and much more natural than adults are, and their idea of reasoning and order are much more animalistic than one might presume. What this means is that, while adults may sugarcoat the existence of a desire to be in control of dire situations, the final battle is always for power. We are asked to be withdrawn from the context of a real war that is taking place in the world, and pushed into the small world of a few children trying to bring order into an orderless world, and what decisions they might have to make during this journey.
The book addresses many crucial concepts that society may have to deal with when faced with a real threat of destruction, and more importantly, the fight for power. Whether it is in the reasonable Ralph (with a better advisor than anyone else, Piggy) or the hot-tempered and blood-hungry Jack, a leader will be chosen, with a suitable number to be following. The book allegorises several real concepts and I could not help but be reminded of “Animal Farm” by George Orwell. Whilst George Orwell, I felt, was more obvious with what he was writing about, and how the society of animals descend from a cattle, to an organised system with heirarchy of power, we see Golding accomplish this kind of finesse without having to make the reader feel guilty of reading a reality based novel. While Orwell is extremely clear with the allegories that he puts forth, Golding almost mocks it by introducing a character that makes the reader realise that this was a book about children, and not adults. The book leaves a lot of room for discussion, a discussion that I have been waiting for since I read the book, which is why it has been a suggestion of mine to most of the people I know who read.
That said, with books like these, there is not much criticism to be offered, not because it cannot be done, but because it is extremely tough to critique a piece of work that is the onlt insight you have into something. What I mean by this is, that I could only criticise the book if there was any other like it, and I do not mean this in a good way. Children are different from animals, and characteristics cannot be attributed to them as easily as Orwell did in “Animal Farm”. A pertinent question that I felt myself asking throughout the novel was whether I could actually rely on it or not. It is difficult to digest an assertion of the fact that children or not, humans are savages when they are tested.
I give the book 3 stars on GoodReads, lower than I generally give books I love, and I only do this because I am too afraid to be cynical to be able to believe it. Other than that, it is a book that needs to be read for a simple reason that it gives one great insight into how human nature is twisted under conditions of anarchy and chaos, a future that we might have to get used to.