As you probably already know, we’re in the midst of the Love to Read campaign. It’s great. Everyone’s talking about their favourite books and the kind of stuff they grew up reading, so I thought I’d use my monthly Girls Heart Books post to do the same.
Of course, like many book lovers, picking a favourite is tough. It’s basically like asking me my favourite member of Slipknot.
But in the end I picked a book I loved as a teenager. A book I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Lord of the Flies by William Golding.
It’s definitely my favourite ‘Lord of the’ thing, way ahead of Rings, Manor and Dance.
I first read it when I was about fifteen and loved it immediately. It’s tense and exciting and dark. More importantly, it’s beautifully written. I mean, check out this quote:
Sleep enveloped him like the swathing mirages that were wrestling with the brilliance of the lagoon.
Delicious, isn’t it?
Anyway, here’s the gist:
A plane full of boys, fleeing an unspecified nuclear war of some kind, crashes on a desert island. The survivors form a rudimentary society, using a conch as a horn to call meetings and organising smoke signals for passing ships.
Soon though, their society begins to crumble, with paranoia about a ‘beast’ running rampant and disagreements between the leader Ralph, and the villainous Jack Merridew. Jack and his followers begin to turn savage, sacrificing a pig to the ‘beast’ and descending into mayhem and murder.
I could heavily identify with this book when I was fifteen. As I mentioned in my previous post, I was beginning to notice the animal-like behaviour of some of my classmates, and had no trouble believing that the book was an accurate depiction of what would happen if the same thing happened to us on a school trip!
For this reason, Lord of the Flies must have been an influence on me when I wrote the Private Blog of Joe Cowley, even if I didn’t realise it at the time. There’s also a nod to it in My Embarrassing Dad’s Gone Viral, where Mary pretends to have ‘assmar’.
But the book goes much deeper than just teenage boys. The message that runs through Lord of the Flies is that in all of us, beneath our workaday, ‘nice weather we’re having’ civilised exteriors, lies a savage, tribal instinct that we try our best to ignore.
If you look at what’s happening around the world, it’s hard to deny it –
You can see it in the Middle East and across the world, where maniacs indiscriminately kill in the name of their twisted interpretation of their religion.
You can see it in America, where a giant cheesy Wotsit in a Barney Rubble wig spews venom about Latinos, Muslims and women, while his millions of ignorant followers cheer and chant ‘lock her up, lock her up.’
You can see it at home, in the UK, where white supremacists masquerading as respectable ‘concerned citizens’, victimize and mock refugee children because they look a little old, and brand judges ‘enemies of the people’ and call for them to be ‘hunted like dogs’.
That ugly tribalism, that hatred, that chilling lack of empathy is beautifully portrayed in Lord of the Flies, and shows us just how bad it can get if we let it.
So I would advise everyone to read Lord of the Flies. And when you do, after you’ve digested it and thought about what it says about human nature, take a look at what’s happening in the world and ask yourself one question:
Do I want to be Ralph, or do I want to be Jack?