This is a book most people have heard about. You’ve heard English teachers mention it, seen it hiding away in the corners of bookstore shelves, or maybe even have this old copy lying at home, collecting dust. That was the case for me, at least. I jumped to the conclusion that it was ‘just another one of those classics – hard to read, heavy on the intellectual, with small print and yellowed pages’.
.Rest assured, I was wrong. Okay, so what’s the main theme of the book? The slow but sure destruction of society and civilization and the degradation of mankind. A group of young boys are trapped on an island, where they crash-landed after being evacuated from Britain (on account of the fact that an atomic bomb had exploded – a point that is not immediately clear to the reader). These boys initially establish some rules and structure; they have elections for a chief, hold regular meetings, and even attempt to conduct a census. As time goes on, however, their structure fades, they forget who they are, where they’ve come from, and indeed, even the fact that they ought to be trying to get back home.
.A young boy named Percieval, who at the beginning of the book has his name, address, telephone number memorized, can no longer remember these central components of his identity as we reach the final chapter. There is rebellion, mutiny and murder – the latter being senseless, the lines of intention and accident blurred by savagery.
.Let’s take a look at the context. If you pay attention to the book, to the way you see civilization slipping from the hands of these young men, the whole message is quite disturbing. Golding wrote this book in the years after the nuclear bomb had been invented, when the effects of Cold-War-Arms-Race thinking had not yet subsided, when A-bombs & H-bombs were the next big thing. To a world of people trapped between feeling disgust, fear and euphoria about the vast power of this new technology, Golding writes to remind us of the true damage potential of mankind. Not only as we susceptible to egotism, greed, and power, but we are capable of the most vicious savagery.
.Golding reminds us of our weakest moments, of what we may become with the power of nuclear weapons, how what we have created as one of our greatest achievements might just as well destroy us.