How Lord of the Flies Changed My Mind
This novel depicts a scenario that feels eerily possible.
I’ve found in recent years that a lot of my favourite books and stories are memorable because they reflect real-life situations, and because of that, they make us question ourselves in ways we didn’t before. Whether it's fiction or nonfiction, creative observations of the real world to make us believe the story, believe in its message, and become emotionally involved.
This is what made Lord of the Flies by William Golding such an interesting read for me. This novel depicts a scenario that feels eerily possible.
Lord of the Flies was Golding’s first novel, published in 1954, and follows a group of young boys who have to survive on an island following a plane crash. While awaiting rescue, they attempt to form their own society with rules and order, but this dramatically backfires as they turn against each other with violent consequences. In a sense this situation is totally plausible; we've seen similar things in films like Castaway. But Golding’s personal life led him to develop this setting into something much darker, where a seemingly innocent group of twelve-year-olds turn into savage hunters, like their primitive ancestors, seeing each other as prey when the order collapses, and making a quiet island into a place of bloody murder.
Golding’s influence for the novel came from his time in World War II, when he witnessed the cruel things that humans could do to each other. He experienced the Nazi concentration camps, the treatment of prisoners by the Japanese, and even the bombing of civilians from his own British allies. Clearly, these things are what bled into Lord of the Flies and gave birth to the innocent-looking characters that end up embracing their dark side. I remember discussing in class what this could have meant, and what the book could be trying to tell us. There were many suggestions, but I most clearly remember a quote from Golding that was something like, ‘Everyone has a form of the Devil inside them.’
I agree. I think we have all, at some point, had dark thoughts, and we all have the potential to act on them. News reports are evidence of this. Portraying the outcomes using very young children is a stroke of genius; it feels deeply uncomfortable, and shows how easy it could be for humans, no matter what age, to act on their darkest instincts. So the first time I read this book, I immediately realised the truth in it: I could easily observe humans’ potential to act maliciously towards one another, and it changed my perspective on human beings. It also changed the way I write my own characters.
My stories have matured significantly over the years, and these days I'm more open to the possibilities that human can explore. To me, a novel, film, or TV show is compelling when it introduces characters that have, for example, murderous intentions, because not only are you scared of them, but this fear is enough to make you fascinated. There is no point in using your creativity to paint pretty pictures of perfect humans with hearts of gold. To me, a story is far more likely to resonate with me if it can show the worst side of human nature. This applies to more than just the darkest characters; what's even more interesting to me is exploring the cruel side that exists within 'good' characters. It forces us to wonder--could that be me?
Ultimately, I love books that explore the hidden parts of human nature. Lord of the Flies is just one of many texts that intrigues readers because it sheds light into those dark corners.
by Abigail Martin