WARNING: Will contain spoilers!
When I told people that this novel was on my list, I have to admit their faces filled me with a little fear. But then, not a lot of people enjoyed the book they were made to read during their GCSE’s (other than me clearly), so I chose to ignore their grimaces and go in open minded anyway – and I’m glad I did.
I have to say, I’ve never read a book with this premise before but I guess that’s why it became the critically acclaimed novel that it did, so with that in mind, it was fairly difficult to see past the unnatural events that occurred. But once I did I was pleasantly surprised.
Knowing that in the 1950’s (the book was originally published in 1954) Golding was working in an all boy’s grammar school, the source of the messages in the novel become clear – but admittedly, the brutality of the boys became even more relatable as it suggests Golding feared for the preadolescence boys he taught as they were entering the struggles of adulthood. Being aware of Golding’s struggle to become an acclaimed writer also suggests he was slightly resentful towards the social barriers in life and only ever imagined they would do the same to the innocence and hope of the young boys around him.
Golding successfully manages to produce a strong contrast between childlike concerns such as peer pressure and bullying with serious issues within the social system such as a struggle for power, a hierarchy and a need to survive. By doing this he represents how such social fears manage to destroy innocence and by isolating these boys on this island and making them face such issues as children, he is suggesting that society can force reality on them too soon.
There are also definitely comments on the effects war has on the innocent, particularly given the fact Golding had recently returned from World War Two. Knowing that young boys were often enlisted into wars, it’s clear Golding is projecting how doing so destroys the true and kind nature that is associated with innocence and causes them to become brutal to one another as a means to survive. A clear symbol of this suggestion is at the end of the novel when the boys are found by a naval officer, who voices his disappointed on their behaviour. He claims that young British boys should not behave in this savage way, but then looks sadly towards his own war ship while saying so, knowing that that is just the fate war creates for innocent.
If you haven’t read this, I definitely think that you should. It’s not very long, it can be hard to wrap your head around the general actions, but once you look at the messages Golding is trying to bring to light in this novel, it’s easy to see why it became so famous and such a successful and powerful comment on social issues.
Up next: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.