Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Lord of the flies

A bunch of English schoolboys wake up on a deserted tropical island. An A-bomb? Mass evacuation? Airplane crash but no wreckage remains. Kids but no adults.  Everything they know is gone and there is a scary "beast" haunting the jungle.

Sound like the TV series Lost but no. It is the classic book Lord of the Flies. The second book on my reading list.

But survival isn't the problem for the boys. There is tropical fruit, fresh water and pigs that they learn to hunt. They have fire. No this story is about people existing without rules, society or authority. Being schoolboys ramps it up as the older boys now face the responsibilities of the adult world with no guidance.

What starts as a jolly good adventure quickly turns nasty as rivalries emerge and things fall apart. Good natured and likable Ralph is elected chief but Jack, leader of the pig hunters starts to undermine him. Chaos and fear stalk the boys and simple tasks like keeping a signal fire going begins to lose meaning. There is murder.

Finally it is Ralph as the outcast, fleeing the tribe across the burning island. Slowly it dawns on him exactly what his fate will be when caught. They have sharpened a stick at both ends!

Written in 1954 by William Golding, for many this book was required reading at school. Golding was a school teacher himself and clearly wrote the book with a lesson in mind - the savagery of mankind. "Maybe there is a beast… maybe it's only us."

And while the book may be dated by our standards, the theme is universal. You see in The Walking Dead. Never mind the zombies, it your fellow humans you should fear.

And while there are no zombies in Lord of the Flies, Golding uses an interesting device to give the imagined "beast" a physical reality. A dead pilot whose tangled parachute makes him move. What better than a "zombie" to symbolise the growing fear gripping the boys.

Bite off more than you can chew

Mr Rimsky

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