An interesting question came up in the Q&A forum today, to which a number of us responded. The question reads, "if you were among the boys were dropped in the island, how will you save yourselves from evil?"
I think we can take this a good deal farther than the Q&A section allows us to discuss. What do you all think? How can we compare Golding's evil to other "evils" and consequences or lack thereof, to both literature and history? I am thinking this would make a very interesting cross-curriculum debate.
One difficulty that Ralph had in maintaining his leadership was that he needed a cooler sidekick to support and back him up. Part of the reason that Jack was so easily able to challenge Ralph was that he knew Ralph's vulnerability--Piggy. Piggy was Ralph's weak spot, and Jack was able to manipulate this to his benefit with the other boys as well, because they did not like Piggy either.
Ralph just needed a stronger wingman. Piggy's intelligence and sense of logic helped Ralph stay true to his purpose of rescue, but Piggy's weakness and unlikeability contributed greatly to Ralph's downfall.
With a greater fluidity of leadership, the boys might have had a chance earlier on to test out the qualities of both Ralph and Jack as chief. If this were the case, it's possible that the boys would not have rebelled as they did against Ralph. They could have kept order as a matter of preference, instead of choosing chaos as a default alternative to what became an unsatisfactory status quo.
I have freshmen students that often draw comparison between LOTF and Animal Farm, sometimes even with Watership Down. They base their comparisons on those novels also including the formations of new societies, but they rarely expand into comparing the evils of those novels. I think it would be difficult to compare the evils faced by Hazel and co. in Watership Down simply because those were external problems. Essentially, it was their internal strength that allowed them to succeed. In LOTF and AF, however, it was their lack of internal strength that caused them to fail. In both, the characters made decisions based on the corruption of power without regard to the bigger picture of the society. Jack and Napoleon both acted with a "me first" attitude while Ralph and Snowball were stuck trying to progress their society (albeit Ralph to a great extent because of Snowball's removal). At any rate, the masses in both novels are stuck between different leadership factions and basically forced to follow whomever asserts himself first (and most violently).
On a side note, I've had students try to draw a parallel between Jack and Gene (from A Separate Peace) by saying Gene's actions were inherently evil. I'm not sure I'd take it that far, though, since the true motivation and actual events of Finny falling from the tree are still largely unknown - mere speculation from a group a characters.
Thank you for posting this interpretation to "Hearts in Atlantis". I really enjoy that book and the next time I read it, I will read it with "Lord of the Flies" in mind. I recently taught 'Flies' to a 7th grade class and we were able to come up with a myriad of TV programs which take on this premise. "Lost" came up first but soon many others followed even "Gilligan's Island".
Apart from "Robinson Crusoe", and "Treasure Island" can anyone think of books which follow this general concept of a group of people being put down on an isolated place?
Douglas Coupland's "Girlfriend in a Coma" a sort of post apocalyptic story would fit. They have the chance to change the world but because of their pettiness they fail.
Would Yann Martel's "Life of Pi" or "Old Man in the Sea" as man set down with himself?
Or do neither of those fit?
Stephen King dealt with this novel in an interesting way in the first story of his "Hearts in Atlantis" anthology. In King's novel, Golding's world is a metaphor for the evil the protagonist and his mother are facing -- the evil of the modern bully, whether in the form of a strong school boy or in the form of an overbearing boss. In a particularly graphic scene, the protagonist - a 10 year old boy - pictures his mother being chased by her boss and his colleagues, as if she was the pig and the men were Jack and the boys. An unchecked desire for power is the real evil in the world today.
Thanks, Jamie, for moving it here, for I too felt that the question was provocative, fruitful for more discussion than q & a had room for. My response was probably out of line for q & a so I will restate it here: what if a girl were that "you" that is dropped on the island? The assumption is that this is a "boys only" world, no girls allowed, which of course has much to do with Golding's psychology--or at least view of his life. Taking into account all the work done on mean girls, alpha girls, but remembering too Chodorow's work on the relational female self, where would be go with this speculation?
This topic fascinated me too. I can appreciate sagtrieb's remarks about girls but I don't think the violence would be as brutal, at least for awhile. I have taught this novel for about ten years now. I have tried to switch but the results with my classes have never been as interesting. Anyhow, I have often asked the girls in my class how they feel about a gender switch on the island. The overwhelming consensus was a lot of cliques with a lot of emotional abuse. The violence is possible but much farther down the road. One more quick idea to consider.Actually, I thought of this back when I was a little Tiger in grade eleven (refined somewhat). What if Ralph had "taken Jack out" or, at the least, humiliated him in a way that was destroyed his alpha-male credibility. Would the novel have been different? I think Roger was on his way to doing this already, but he was no leader. These boys behaved no differently than a pack of wolves, and I mean that literally. Any thoughts?