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"Lord of the Flies" by William Golding: Morality, Masculinity, and Life

Casey has a Ph.D. in sociology and has 15 years of experience in academia.

Have You Read "Lord of the Flies"?

The book Lord of the Flies by William Golding is commonly found as part of English class curriculums all over the United States. The story follows a group of boys stranded on a deserted island, without any adults. At first, the boys work together to survive, but as time passes, the boys grow aggressive with one another. Eventually, their aggression turns to pure evil--even murder.

My old copy of "Lord of the Flies"

My old copy of "Lord of the Flies"

Golding lived through World War II and Lord of the Flies was inspired by his experiences. He used the story of a group of boys to explain that all men have evil inside of them. The evil that existed during WWII and the crimes committed by the Germans was what sparked Golding to write Lord of the Flies. Even though it is a story about boys on an island, the story has a lot of depth and symbolism.

I like to write notes in my books. The three most important characters are Ralph, Piggy, and Jack

I like to write notes in my books. The three most important characters are Ralph, Piggy, and Jack

All Humans Are Evil... Or Are They?

The theme of the story is that humans are inherently evil and power-hungry. At the beginning of the story, after arriving on the island, the stranded boys felt the need to follow the rules of English society and the rules of their parents. Different boys in the group expressed feelings of fear, regret, or restriction at first.

After they killed their first wild pig things changed. By killing they became aggressive and forgot the old rules they followed when they lived in normal society. Piggy was the only boy who always represented the old rules. Piggy acted adult-like because he was smart and he was capable of giving valuable guidance to surviving on the island. He lacked the leadership qualities needed to get respect from the other boys. He was rejected and hated by another boy named Jack and the other hunters for representing old rules. He was seen as weak and threatened the new power structure emerging.

Killing their first pig changed them mentally. It pushed the boys to want power and dominance over nature and other boys. In the beginning, the boys were much more cooperative with one another. They were all scared and felt like they needed one another to survive. After becoming successful hunters the group dynamics broke apart.

Piggy: A Lesson In Social Class and Masculinity

The book has one character who is truly different from all the boys on the island. The boy is named Piggy and he represents the one person who retains the ability to be good and moral while all the other boys turn on one another and fight.

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One reason Piggy is hated by the other boys on the island is that he comes from a different social class. His friend Ralph’s father is in the navy giving him a higher social status. A group of choir boys comes from the upper class and wealthy families. Piggy however seems to come from a working-class status home which can be seen in how he talks and his work ethic.

Piggy is also treated badly by the other boys because he mentions he lives with his aunt. His aunt is the only woman mentioned in the entire book. His mentioning of a female as his only parental figure and the one giving him guidance in life makes him seem weak and less masculine in the eyes of the other boys. Young boys are often taught to tease other boys for doing things like girls or for their relationships with their moms or girls. Piggy’s relationship with his aunt and his showing he has a strong need to follow her rules and guidance make him a target for the boys. Ralph mentioned his father several times and this gives him status but Piggy mentioning his aunt lowers his status.

Could This Story Really Happen?

I think there is a possibility a situation like portrayed in Lord of the Flies could happen. In extreme situations of survival, people can often turn violent towards one another when opinions and techniques for survival differ. In everyday society, we have rules, spoken and unspoken, that govern the behaviors that we learn through socializing with others. When taken out of normal society and put into life and death situations, like surviving on an island, there is no government, police, or military to reinforce social rules so old rules might be forgotten.

People with certain personalities may seek power and dominance over others. On an island with no formal rules or social structure put into place, individuals with violent personalities, dominating, ignorant, and uncaring of others may impact how social life is lived on the island in a negative way. People who threaten those grasping for power might be ostracized from the group or even killed.

Back cover of my copy of the book

Back cover of my copy of the book

Overall, Lord of the Flies is a great book to read and a fascinating story about how all people have evil in them. It is a useful book to include as part of juvenile literature courses or as a teaching tool on human morality. There are many lessons about masculinity, power, social norms, and more that can be pulled from the material to discuss everyday society and how humans interact and function together in times of chaos.


Casey White (author) on October 11, 2020:

Thank you Ivana Divac! It's such a great book and it really makes you think about everyday society. Glad you liked my review!

Ivana Divac from Serbia on October 10, 2020:

This was a great review. I loved Lord of the Flies and it's a really fascinating story, like you said, and somewhat disturbing in a way or two. Thanks for sharing your opinion about it!

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