Study Guide

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

Lord of the Flies Essay - Critical Overview

Critical Overview

Lord of the Flies has attracted an immense amount of both favorable and unfavorable criticism. Most vehement among the latter critics are Kenneth Rexroth, whose essay in the Atlantic Monthly castigated the author for having written a typical "rigged" "thesis novel" whose characters "never come alive as real boys." In the same camp is Martin Green (1960), who criticizes Golding's early works, including Lord of the Flies, as "not importantly original in thought or feeling." Otherwise admiring critics like James R. Baker have claimed that the popularity of the book peaked by the end of the 1960s because of that decade's naive view of humanity and rejection of original sin.

Among critics who admire Lord of the Flies, there is remarkable disagreement about the book's influences, genre, significant characters, and theme, not to mention the general philosophy of the author. Frank Kermode's early essay, excerpts of which appear in Baker & Ziegler's casebook edition of the novel, examines R. M. Ballantyne's Victorian boys' adventure story The Coral Island as Golding's primary influence. He interprets Golding's book as a powerful story, capable of many interpretations, precisely because of the author's "mythopoeic power to transcend" his own allegorical "programme." Bernard F. Dick, while acknowledging The Coral Island's influence, builds on Kermode's observation that the book's strength is grounded in its mythic level by tracing the influence of the Greek dramatists, especially Euripides whose play The Bacchae Golding himself acknowledged as an important source of his thinking. Dick notes that The Bacchae and Lord of the Flies both "portray a bipolar society in which the Apollonian...

(The entire section is 737 words.)