Banned Books Week Spotlight – Lord of the Flies

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.

Publisher description:

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?

Buy this book on Amazon.

Check out my Banned Books Week Spotlights all week, every day at 2 pm Central through Saturday, Octobter 4th.

Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South AfricaThe Grapes of WrathThe Handmaid’s TaleNative SonTo Kill a Mockingbird

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!

The Perks of Being a WallflowerAnd Tango Makes ThreeCatch-22 The GiverThe Things They CarriedThe Bluest EyeIt’s Perfectly Normal

29 comments to Banned Books Week Spotlight – Lord of the Flies

  • Ooooh! Lord of the Flies is one of my most favorite books ever. The good ones are always banned! It seems like the people banning them would be better off NOT banning them if they don’t want people to take notice of the book. When people ban a book, it makes people all the more interested. Free advertising!

  • Gosh, I remember reading this in high school, an all girls Catholic High School too. We must have been more open minded than I realized. I also remember that I found it very depressing.

    • blake

      all girls highschool man i should request i highschool transfer but lordo of the flies should never be banned that is saying u cant have freedom of speech or press

  • I read it in high school – probably ninth grade? and I don’t recall (though it’s been a little while) it being too graphic for anyone. I do recall not liking it.

  • Our class read this in I want to say 10th grade. I really loved it but I can only remember bits and pieces of it now. I know some of it was disturbing though but banning it is just dumb.

  • I read Lord of the Flies my senior year of high school, and it seemed every year we read something that pointed to the dangers of mob mentality when others follow someone with the strongest voice (Animal Farm, Julius Caesar, The Crucible, and this). And I thought this was the most powerful example of why it’s not a good thing to behave as sheep, so to speak. I think what made this book so powerful to me was that it doesn’t seem so far out of the realm of possibility. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed this book, per se, but I think it’s definitely a book that people *should* read.

  • I loved this book, I think I read it on my own about the time I was in Jr. High. At the time I didn’t question it, it was about boys and I had no doubt they would go wild if left to their own devises. 😀 Looking back on it I remember I was just horrified at the breakdown of their behavior and how quickly the independent thinkers were overwhelmed by the bully’s who ruled a mob mentality of weak minded followers. While I don’t necessarily agree that it is the base of human nature, I think we are capable of it if we aren’t brought up to be the ones who are confident free thinkers. So I think tht is the valuable lesson for students (and one I think most parents start early trying to teach their children). Otherwise. hello… Nazi Germany! Bosnia, Darfur , it’s still going on.

  • Amy

    I love this book. It’s the perfect example of the kind of book that sticks with you forever!

    I read it sophomore year, the same year I read A Separate Peace and the short story The Cold Equation…all stories that are stuck in my head forever and that I still think about from time to time.

  • Such a powerful book. I read this in high school and found it very readable, fascinating and disturbing. I can certainly see why people object to it -yes, it’s quite crude and insulting and portrays human nature despicably- and want to ban it, but I don’t think ANY book should be banned. Exploring such ideas in literature is far better, I think, than say dumping a bunch of people on a small island and making a reality show about their eventual breakdown.

  • I seriously didn’t understand why this book is banned

  • one of the few books i can say i truly HATED. i don’t know, i read it when i was 13 i think, and maybe i need to try it again, but i really really didn’t like it. eric loved it though, and the phrase “sucks to your asthmar” is used regularly in our household. :)

  • Elizabeth M.

    I really liked this book when I read it in high school. I found it fascinating although having to pick it apart for english class did dull some of the enjoyment.

  • I am so surprised to see how many people love this book. As for banning — no way this is very well written and it deserves to be a classic. But I thought the story was horrible! Yes, human nature is bad, but it’s also good.

    I read it for the first time as an adult; my english class read To Kill a Mockingbird and the others read Lord of the Flies. I much prefer the To Kill a Mockingbird look at human nature!

    Rebecca Reid’s last blog post..Beauty and the Beast + The Complete Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault

  • Cinnamen D

    I have read this book before in 10th grade and now my senior year were doing a presentation on banned books i picked lord of the flies. For one i like the book i would want people younger then me to read this, but some of the reasons I read about this book being banned is crazy for example in Toronto they banned this book because it said “nigger” OMG how can a person remember just one word of the book cause when i think about this book the only thing I think of is a group of boys being stuck on an island learning how to survive and at the same time showing that man will turn wild when it needs survive but thats it really. Also I really don’t feel this book should banned any where or any other books

  • jskdbhddgfdhs

    i have read this book in 7th grade. no need to ban it. its a great read.

  • Grace


  • yo

    i love this book, i just had to read it for my tenth drage english 2 honors class. it would’nt of hurt if it was more grphic. there’s nothing wrong with this book<3

  • mamon

    I belive this is very ridiculous

  • joe

    I read this book last semester then changed school and am reading it yet again. i have tried looking at it from religious stand point, humanistic stand point, and schucks i even tried reading it with a Freudian standpoint. It still reads the same, id, dark part of the human nature, Satan all the conflicts, it just makes it a dark story. People have banned books for some stupid reasons in the past. But banning this book for its over look of some common courtesies is blatant stupidity, only obtainable by barely educated suburban mothers, who’s whinny 16 year old daughter didn’t want to do her English assignment.

  • alex

    I recently read Lord of the Flies by William Golding and I believe it is challenged because of a large amount of mature content, the display of human nature, and many violent scenes. Is this correct??

  • Molly

    I don’t like this book, yes it is well written, but it is just another celebrated, Eurocentric novel. Really, the appropriation by Golding of supposedly ‘savage’ cultures is so obvious but nobody EVER seems to notice it due to the blinding white privilege. In my class, when I suggested the book was inherently racist, and I thought it was strange no teacher ever seemed to pick up on that, my whole class started yelling at me telling me that the book never mentioned skin colour or origin (which isn’t completely what racism is about).

    • This is a really interesting take, I’m surprised we don’t see more race-based interpretations of Lord of the Flies. Obviously you’re right that skin color/origin being mentioned has nothing to do with whether the book is racist. I’m not sure that it is overtly racist since the book is about the pacifying effect of civilization and the fact that, without it, ANY person would become a “savage.” However, there are definite racist undertones, implications, and judgements of those who do not live a Western lifestyle. Of course, the book is a product of its time, but pointing out those issues could make it an even more instructive read; you could probably say a lot about the colonial attitude with this book.

  • […] My thoughts: When I first read this book in grade school, I really didn’t get it and wasn’t all the crazy about it, perhaps because of the science fiction elements.  I reread it in middle school, though, and have loved it ever since.  It certainly never challenged my religious beliefs.  I actually also just reread this book in honor of banned books week, and you can see my review here. […]

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