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William Golding's novel of schoolboys stranded on a tropical island after their plane crashes, Lord of the Flies, was originally entitled Strangers from Within. This original title is rather prosaic, so Golding's publisher suggested that he use one that might intrigue readers. The word lord denotes a person who is in control, while at the same time, the lord of the flies is a literal translation of the Hebrew Beelzebub, another name for Satan, the Devil.
Having written his novel after witnessing the horrors of World War II, Golding's title seems relevant to the hell on earth that was the European theatre of war. With this title and the time setting of the novel, the overriding force of evil that is present in the hearts of man is suggested throughout the narrative, thus generating suspense as the reader anticipates the appearance of this lord of the flies.
William Golding suffered ten rejections of his novel, originally titled Strangers from Within, before finding a publisher who wanted it. In September 1953 a young editor from the firm Faber and Faber, Charles Monteith, wrote to Golding accepting the manuscript. In a letter written in December 1953, Moneteith notes his skepticism about the title. Nineteen possible titles would be suggested before Lord of the Flies was nailed down.
In a letter dated February 25, 1954, (link below), Monteith proposes Lord of the Flies as a title. According to Monteith, someone else at the publishing company had offered that title, and everyone who was involved from the firm seemed to agree that the title was apt because it referred to one of the most memorable scenes from the story, it was impressive, and it would likely boost book sales. Monteith assured Golding that if he didn't like the title, he didn't have to go along with it. Evidently Golding didn't object. Monteith also came up with the chapter titles and sent them to Golding for approval via correspondence. Other letters show that the publisher worked with Golding to polish Simon's characterization so that he didn't appear to self-righteous. It's fun to look back at letters that show how such a literary classic arrived at its final form.
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