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Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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How did William Golding's experiences influence Lord of the Flies?

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As an opening caveat, we must exercise caution in applying biographical information to a reading of a novel.

That being said, as other answers have mentioned, Golding's experiences as a schoolteacher at Bishop Wordsworth's school gave him exposure to the attitudes of young English boys. He experimented at the school with dividing his students into "gangs" that would fight over a "prehistoric" camp, an experience which probably influenced and informed his writing of Lord of the Flies.

Golding also exhibited a degree of honesty in describing his personal life, which spills over into his honest depiction of the darker drives and desires described in his novel. He admitted he could be a bully as a child and wrote in an unpublished memoir of attempting to rape a 15-year-old girl.

As a young child, Golding lived in a coastal town, Newquay, in Cornwall, which, though in a colder climate, may well have influenced his idyllic descriptions of the beach where the boys land.

Golding also lived through and served in World War II. He would have been acutely aware of the growth of Nazism and the buildup of the atavistic evil unleashed by Hitler's appeal to the worst aspects in human nature: these are transposed to the charismatic Jack in the novel and his ability to tap into the barbaric impulses of his followers.

Further, Golding was a Christian, which may have influenced his creation of Simon as a Christ figure in the novel.

Golding lived through a period of history that caused many to raise questions about the evil inherent in all humans, and in response he wrote a novel that makes an eloquent defense of civilization as a force to keep evil at bay.

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William Golding's personal life experiences were the thread that pulled together the themes of inherent human evil, the rules of civilization, and boyhood impulse in his novel Lord of the Flies. Walking in his father’s footsteps, William Golding began a career in education as a schoolmaster. Because of this, he was consistently around children and understood, both in his childhood and adult life, the patterns of how children behave and think.

Furthermore, Golding’s career was interrupted in 1940 at the outbreak of World War II when he served in the British Royal Navy with active duty in the North Atlantic. Golding was exposed to the reality of society breaking down and reducing itself to savagery. His time in the war provided him with direct knowledge of a young mind dealing with the impact of violence and savagery.

Also interesting to note is the fact that Golding’s mother was active in the Women’s Suffrage Movement. This may have provided William Golding with a context of growing up in a household where it was acceptable and likely applauded to speak out and be bold with controversial ideas and philosophies.

Lord of the Flies perfectly demonstrates an author using their life experiences to methodically and realistically challenge our ideas of what is acceptable in society, how society breaks down, and why.

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Growing up as the son of an English schoolmaster and later becoming one himself, William Golding had abundant opportunity to observe the dynamics of the relationships among boys in their preadolescence. He is quoted as admitting that as a boy he had been a bit of a bully, confessing "I enjoyed hurting people." It seems likely that Golding's own violent behavior informed the characters in Jack's group of hunters. His day-to-day immersion in the lives of boys as their teacher undoubtedly helped him sketch out his characters' personalities and their conflicts.

When Britain became involved in WWII, Golding joined the Royal Navy and saw plenty of action, including serving as the commander of a rocket-launching ship. Because the boys in Lord of the Flies end up marooned on an island while a war rages not all that far away, it is clear that in writing the novel Golding combined his knowledge of the behavior of male children and what men are capable of in war.

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William Golding was an English and philosophy teacher at Bishop Wordsworth’s School in Salisbury before he joined the Royal Navy in 1940 where he would eventually fight in WWII. Both experiences shaped Golding's perspective on life and served as inspirations for his novel Lord of the Flies. Golding's experience attempting to teach and discipline unruly children influenced the characters in his novel. Golding understood how children behaved and was aware of their disobedient, selfish personalities. Golding also witnessed atrocities and death during WWII when he fought in several battles. Golding commented that he witnessed what man was capable of doing to one another during the war. Golding is quoted as saying,

"Anyone who moved through those years without understanding that man produces evil as a bee produces honey, must have been blind or wrong in the head."

This pessimistic view of humanity influenced Golding's decision to represent the boys in the novel as being inherently evil. William Golding drew from his experiences as a teacher and soldier to create a novel that portrayed humanity's inherent wickedness. 

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Can you explain to me how Golding's life influenced him to write Lord of the Flies?

This is a good question. William Golding was born on September 19, 1911, in England. He followed in his father’s footsteps and became a teacher at a school called Salisbury. When World War II broke out, he joined the Royal Navy. Golding saw many naval battles. Eventually, he became a Lieutenant and commanded a rocket-launching craft. These two parts of his life came together in his book, The Lord of the Flies.

Golding, as a teacher at Salisbury, learned about the life of boys. More specifically, the school was attached to a church, so it had choristers. Golding could reflect as an adult observing children. Connected to this point, he also grew up in a private school, and later on he would say that he was a brat who even enjoyed hurting others. He had ready material.

As a soldier, Golding saw first-hand the tragedies of war. He experienced evil. He went on to say, “I have always understood the Nazis because I am of that sort by nature.” The war refined his thoughts more and helped him to write the novel.

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Can you explain to me how Golding's life influenced him to write Lord of the Flies?

William Golding had two life experiences that probably influenced Lord of the Flies. He was a schoolmaster, which certainly gave him a good understanding of how a group of boys, left to their own devices, might not be particularly "civilized."  Second, Golding joined the British Royal Navy and served during World War II, a time during which many reasonable people had good reason to feel that the civilized world was collapsing.  While we look back now and say, "Of course we won the war," there were periods during which it was not so clear which side would win. What would have happened if Hitler and his allies had prevailed?  We don't really know for sure, but it is obvious that the people who were the biggest bullies and who had the best weapons would call the shots. Certainly, many of us would have felt that we were in an uncivilized world. 

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How did William Golding's life influence the text of Lord of the Flies?

William Golding (1911-1993) spent many years teaching school. In 1939, he began working as an English and philosophy teacher at Bishop Wordsworth's School. He worked there until 1961, save for the five years he spent in the Royal Navy during World War II. Therefore, he knew well the ways of schoolchildren, and he used this knowledge in writing Lord of the Flies

In addition, he was greatly influenced by the horrific bloodshed he saw while fighting in World War II. During the war, he took part in the landing on Normandy during D-Day. Breaking with his father, Alec, who was also a teacher and who believed in rationality and the capability of human beings to work towards perfection, Golding believed that evil lurked everywhere behind the superficial civilized veneer of human beings. This belief in the omnipresence of evil also influenced his writing of Lord of the Flies. 

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