Lord of the Fliesby William Golding
Original publication date: 1954
This week is banned books week in the United States. All week I will be highlighting banned, challenged, and censored books I own and have read.
William Golding’s classic tale about a group of English schoolboys who are plane-wrecked on a deserted island is just as chilling and relevant today as when it was first published in 1954. At first, the stranded boys cooperate, attempting to gather food, make shelters, and maintain signal fires. Overseeing their efforts are Ralph, “the boy with fair hair,” and Piggy, Ralph’s chubby, wisdom-dispensing sidekick whose thick spectacles come in handy for lighting fires. Although Ralph tries to impose order and delegate responsibility, there are many in their number who would rather swim, play, or hunt the island’s wild pig population. Soon Ralph’s rules are being ignored or challenged outright. His fiercest antagonist is Jack, the redheaded leader of the pig hunters, who manages to lure away many of the boys to join his band of painted savages. The situation deteriorates as the trappings of civilization continue to fall away, until Ralph discovers that instead of being hunters, he and Piggy have become the hunted: “He forgot his words, his hunger and thirst, and became fear; hopeless fear on flying feet.” Golding’s gripping novel explores the boundary between human reason and animal instinct, all on the brutal playing field of adolescent competition. –Jennifer Hubert
Status: Repeatedly challenged in the United States (citation).
Reason for challenge in the U.S.: Like “To Kill a Mockingbird,” this one is a dozy. Here’s the list: demoralizing because of implications that man is no more than an animal; excessive violence; profanity (“Sucks to your as-mar!”); racism; statements defamatory to women, minorities, the disabled, and God (citation).
My thoughts: I concede that “Lord of the Flies” is violent and demoralizing but, in my opinion, this is not handled in a gratuitous way. Like “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Lord of the Flies” could be called dystopian. This is a novel about the dangers of what we can become if we completely ignore the rules of society and civilization. Whether you agree with Golding’s assessments of human nature or not, it is sure a good conversation starter. We read this freshman year in high school and I would not consider it too violent and graphic for us, primarily because it isn’t just trash, it is literature, and we discussed it as literature, working through some of the difficult issues in the book with our teacher and as a class.
Your Turn: Have you read “Lord of the Flies”? What do you think? Do you think discussing different philosophies of human nature is educationally valuable? Why or why not?
Check out my Banned Books Week Spotlights all week, every day at 2 pm Central through Saturday, Octobter 4th.
Rebecca of The Book Lady’s Blog is doing Banned Books Week Spotlights as well, every morning at 9 am. Check her out as well!