How is Lord of the Flies related to The Coral Island?

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The Coral Island: A Tale of the Pacific Ocean is a book written by R. M. Ballantyne and published in 1858. Golding was supposedly partially inspired to write Lord of the Flies because of his childhood experience with Ballantyne's book.

There are a lot of similarities between the two books. For example, both books have main characters named Jack and Ralph. The setting of both books is an island where the boys are stranded and forced to fend for themselves. Further, fire plays an important role in both books.

Despite these similarities, there are some key differences between the books. For example, Jack and Ralph successfully work together to build shelters and canoes in The Coral Island, while Jack and Ralph of Lord of the Flies do not cooperate successfully—in fact, Jack nearly orchestrates Ralph's murder in Golding's novel. The fire, while important in both novels, is used to very different effects. In Lord of the Flies, the fire is used by Jack as a weapon of destruction. The fire in The Coral Island is used to rid the island of "false gods" and ultimately to restore peace.

Golding doesn't try to hide his book's similarities. In fact, in two different locations, readers see that Golding specifically name-drops Ballantyne's book. The first time is in chapter 2: Ralph is explaining to the boys that they might be on the island for a long time, but it shouldn't be a problem. In his opinion, the island is a good island, and they can enjoy their time there while they wait for rescue.

“While we’re waiting we can have a good time on this island.”

He gesticulated widely.

“It’s like in a book.”

At once there was a clamor.

Treasure Island—”

Swallows and Amazons—”

Coral Island—”

Golding calls our attention to the other book at the end of the novel, and I think he does that to remind us that his novel is very different than the more idyllic Ballantyne book.

“We were together then—”

The officer nodded helpfully.

“I know. Jolly good show. Like the Coral Island.”

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It is often noted that The Coral Island: A Tale of the Pacific Ocean (1857) by R. M. Ballantyne, was a major literary influence in Golding’s writing Lord of the Flies, although Golding’s tale turns the juvenile-adventure genre into a dark exploration of human nature. In Ballantyne’s novel, three boys, two of whom are named Ralph and Jack, are shipwrecked on a deserted island, where they survive by relying on each other and their wits; building a boat, they travel beyond the island, face numerous dangers courageously, and triumph. Before Ralph, the narrator, relates their adventures, he reminds readers that they are about to enter “regions of fun.”

Lord of the Flies takes readers into entirely different regions of experience, but it adheres in many ways to elements in The Coral Island. Like Ballantyne’s novel, Lord of the Flies is a Robinsonade, the genre of adventure fiction established by Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719). Golding’s boys, like Ballantyne’s, experience a disaster that places them without adult supervision in a tropical paradise, a wild place far removed from civilization. They build shelters and forage for food. Before they are overwhelmed with fear and “things are breaking up,” Golding’s castaways explore the island in the spirit of youthful adventure. Setting out on an expedition, “[a] kind of glamour was spread over them … they were conscious of the glamour and made happy by it.” Filled with excitement, they talk and laugh together in the “bright” air and work together to climb to the top of the mountain. As they stand on the summit, Ralph speaks for all as they survey the island spread out below: “This belongs to us,” he declares, unaware of what lies ahead when adventure becomes a nightmare.

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