Placing a group of English schoolboys on a deserted tropical island sets up a what-if situation. The novel presumes an atomic war that threatens to wipe out civilization and a small group of children managing to survive on a previously uninhabited island. Its asks whether such children will re-create the democratic civilization they have experienced during their short lives or instead, because of animal survival instincts, revert to some precivilized form of existence. Finally, if children do slough off the veneer of cultural and ethical standards of conduct, the novel raises the question of the conclusions to be reached concerning human nature.
Lord of the Flies, William Golding’s first published novel, apparently did not appeal to the many editors who rejected it. Once it was published in England, however, it achieved immediate success. In this work, the author expresses his feelings after having spent World War II as a naval officer and having witnessed the devastations of that war. These wartime experiences underlie his basic disillusionment with humanity, expressed in this fable of children losing their innocence and precociously assuming adult guilt. Although Golding continued to express his feelings and questions about the nature of existence in other novels, he never achieved the success of this early venture.
The power of Lord of the Flies stems in part from the credibility of the dialogue and conduct of the young...
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