Violence in Lord of the Flies, in 1954, and Today"Lord of the Flies" was published in 1954, although it is set in some fictional future. In what ways does its message seem to speak to the violence...

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bank4320's profile pic

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Violence in Lord of the Flies, in 1954, and Today

"Lord of the Flies" was published in 1954, although it is set in some fictional future.

In what ways does its message seem to speak to the violence that was present in 1954? What about violence today?

One of the problems with interpreting something within a historical context is that contemporary events always weigh much differently in the consciousness of an individual than do historical events.  For instance, in the early 1950s, when the novel was published, the decolonization of the Middle East might would likely have seemed significant to an English author such as Golding, but this is a conflict which is hardly known about in America today.  "Lord of the Flies" is remains a timely novel largely because it is meant to be divorced from time itself.  When, precisely, it is set is never clearly stated.  However, one thing which might be worth considering is this: the novel is as much about the paranoia of violence as the actual acts of violence themselves.  The fear of the beast which supposedly comes out of the sea is the most prominent example of this, and this may be reflective of the post-World War II atmosphere in which the novel was written; it should be remembered that allies and enemies were not clear cut until several years into the Cold War; in the years after World War II, Washington was as suspicious of London as it was of Moscow.  Another element in the novel which makes it relevant to our own age is this: The primary conflict between the hunters and fire-watchers in the novel stems from the fact that the former wishes to live in a world which satisfies their present desires, whereas the latter wishes to orient their microcosm toward fulfilling future desires.  In other words, while the former tries to exist as a community, the latter would attempt, given enough time, to build a civilization.  In a world in which communal or traditional identity is constantly coming into conflict with global or economic interests, resulting in terrorism and warfare, both of Golding's imaginary societies seem worthy of attention.

mwestwood's profile pic

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The descent of the boys from "Lord of the Flies" into savagery as a result of the absence of adult example and instruction and the lack of ethical, rational structure in society has living examples in modern America.  The permissiveness of parents and lack of parenting has led to a hedonistic youth who satisfy their  urges and retaliate against those who stand in their ways. Examples of such retaliatory, savage behavior by children who kill their parents or grandparents when the parents do not give them what they want, or when the parents try to set restrictions are prevalent in the news. 

Such violent urges are easily satisfied with videos, video games, songs, etc. until the real act is committed just as Jack and the hunters quickly made the transition from killing the pig to murdering Simon and Piggy.

mrs-campbell's profile pic

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In 1954 we were dealing with many different issues regarding the Cold War with Russia and Korea, and also with hydrogen bombs and their potential power and destruction.  WWII was over, but there were many other smaller conflicts going on still, in Korea and elsewhere.  Also, hydrogen bombs were being tested, and fears about atomic warfare were real, suspected, and prepared for in the form of bomb shelters and other disaster preparations.

So it is to the background of all of the atomic paranoia and conflict of the Cold War that this novel came out.  Its ficitional future attested to the fear that many at the time had of a world embroiled in atomic warfare, but also addressed more universal themes of what each human is capable of in difficult circumstances, which was a big question during WWII when so many Jews were killed at the hand of Nazis because "they were just following orders."

As for today, the book's themes are relevant and important.  As terrorism and potential war are always on the horizon for us, the novel's setting is applicable.  But its themes of civility, decency, order, and good vs. evil are universal ones good to ponder in any day and age.

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