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by William Golding
Listening Library, 1954
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Oct 23rd 2003
Lord of the Flies is of the
best known novels of the twentieth century, and the name has become synonymous
with the idea that beneath the thin veneer of civilization lie savage tendencies. Listening to the audiobook
read by William Golding himself, or watching the
Criterion Collection DVD of the film, reminds us that the story can be seen as
more about the British class system than a general condemnation of human
nature. A group of British schoolboys
survive a plane crash and end up on a desert island with no adults to supervise
them. They soon create rules about how
to run the group and who should be leader.
They divide tasks among them and even use a conch shell to determine who
has the right to speak to the group at large gatherings. In short, they soon create their own society
based on the values they have been taught.
They manage to collect enough food and even to keep a fire going in the
hope of being able to attract attention from would-be rescuers. But gradually, the order in their society
starts to break down, as their situation becomes more desperate and as
alliances between different subgroups start to build. The most memorable character in the book is
"Piggy," who, judging by his accent, is of a lower class than most of
the rest of the boys, and who wears glasses, and is also physically weaker
because of his asthma. The other boys
tend to tolerate Piggy because he forms a kind of friendship with one, but in
the end, he is attacked and killed. The
book also shows how quickly the boys revert to primitive religious beliefs and
worries about monsters. Although it is a
fantasy, the underlying psychology of the novel is plausible, and it is still a
provocative story. Golding
reads the audiobook very well, and there are extracts
of his reading on the DVD. The DVD also
includes a particularly interesting commentary by the director, who describes
the process of selecting the actors and making the film, as well as his ideas
in interpreting the novel.
© 2003 Christian Perring. All
Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities
Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.
His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and