Truly a fascinating book and while written in 1954, certainly to be considered a classic.
I approached this book from my own standpoint of theory on the tendency of human nature to begin with an instinct for survival and self-preservation. Sharing, awareness and empathy for others, and simple kindness is something I feel is a learned response. Therefore, I followed along easily with William Golding’s premise that even at a young age, influenced by parental guidance and society’s restrictions and norms, people will resort to the basics.
Here, the group easily decides that it needs a leader, and that certain priorities must be set for the community to benefit and survive. Food is a basic need and while their is plentiful fruit available, there is an outspoken member of the group who insists that what they need is meat. I don’t know why fishing hasn’t been considered–this is an island, after all, and there is a fresh water pool and lagoon–but this is the driving force that splits the group; the established focus previously being fire for smoke and signals to passing ships for rescue. But Jack, the boy in favor of meat as the primary need, is also driven by his regression into a savagery for the hunt itself. The hunt fulfills his needs for aggression–having been squashed by the choice of Ralph as leader–as well as a need for fun, focus, and a following.
Ralph is a leader though based more on his physical appearance, his willingness to take a position, and more importantly, on his acknowledgement of Piggy’s superior intelligence. He is challenged by the struggle for survival, yet he does not have the dominant spirit necessary to persist against Frank.
I’ve no doubt that Golding’s story is a comment on humanity as a whole. How far we each will go to preserve a certain civility and creative instinct to advance individually as well as as a community in order to survive. While Ralph’s faction is intent on hope and rescue, Jack and others are convinced they must grow strong and depend on their own cunning to overcome. It is interesting too to note that the youngest boys, the littluns, while loosely watched, are pretty much left on their own.
Golding brings in much symbolism in this story: the conch as a sign of order and rights, Piggy’s glasses as the power of fire; the paint that Jack uses to hide his old self from the new ways he has adopted, the pig head on the pole. All of these become turning points of conflict and change.
As I’d mentioned in a previous post, there is something lost–even with the fine writing of Golding–in the action scenes. Perhaps because there are so many characters and so many different spots on the island that represent different things, that a high action scene would be better aided by visuals and sound that film offers so that the reader is not distracted by sorting things out and thus slowing the pace. But that could be just my own reading style.
The ending is a bit contrived for my tastes and yet its simplicity and suddenness do tend to verify all that has gone on in the time spent on the island. That was another thing I’d noticed, that Golding does not in any way lay out the exact number of days, weeks, or years by reference and that may be a point that adds to the inevitability of man’s nature.
All told, a phenomenal book that can be easily read as an adventure, but is open to a much deeper statement on the basic nature of mankind.