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Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies (original 1954; edition 1959)

by William Golding

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38,07959028 (3.73)1 / 971
Following a world war, a group of school boys survives a plane crash on a deserted island and creates a hellish environment leading to savagery and murder. Two leaders--one civilized, one depraved--epitomize the forces that war eternally in the human spirit.
Title:Lord of the Flies
Authors:William Golding
Info:Perigee Books (1959), Edition: Reissue, Mass Market Paperback, 208 pages
Collections:Your library, Books

Work details

Lord of the Flies by William Golding (Author) (1954)

  1. 173
    Battle Royale by Koushun Takami (JGKC, Panairjdde)
    Panairjdde: Two books that explore the survival instinct of people, even at youg age, as fueled by fear and lust for violence
  2. 147
    The Giver by Lois Lowry (FFortuna)
  3. 71
    A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes (pitjrw)
    pitjrw: Similar outlook on youth but a lot funnier and great description of a hurricane that plays the same role as the nuclear holacaust in Lord.
  4. 82
    The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan (KayCliff)
  5. 50
    High-Rise by J. G. Ballard (bertilak)
    bertilak: Two books about 'civilized' people becoming tribal and violent. However, Ballard is a disinterested diagnostician and Golding is a moralist.
  6. 30
    Friday and Robinson: life on Esperanza Island by Michel Tournier (yokai)
  7. 52
    The Beach by Alex Garland (booklove2, mcenroeucsb)
    booklove2: The Beach is like Lord of the Flies for adults, starring adults.
  8. 30
    Tunnel in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein (sandstone78)
    sandstone78: A more optimistic view of young people in a society of their own- I read this on my own from the school library a few years before Lord of the Flies was required reading, and it seemed much more reasonable to me.
  9. 31
    Under The Dome by Stephen King (sturlington)
    sturlington: Under the Dome is an adult version of Lord of the Flies.
  10. 20
    The Only Ones by Aaron Starmer (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: A world without adults with some differences and similarities.
  11. 20
    Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids by Kenzaburō Ōe (JuliaMaria)
    JuliaMaria: Kinder auf sich allein gestellt - was sagt es über die Gesellschaft aus?
  12. 10
    Animal Farm by George Orwell (sturlington)
  13. 10
    Queen of Stones by Emma Tennant (KayCliff)
  14. 65
    The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks (villanova)
  15. 11
    After the Rain by John Bowen (edwinbcn)
  16. 00
    I'm the King of the Castle by Susan Hill (KayCliff)
  17. 44
    Robinson Crusoe [Norton Critical Edition] by Daniel Defoe (TomWaitsTables)
  18. 11
    Here (away from it all) by Polly Hope (SomeGuyInVirginia)
  19. 00
    Orphan Island by Rose Macaulay (KayCliff)
  20. 00
    The Coral Island by R. M. Ballantyne (Cecrow)

(see all 31 recommendations)

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1960s (109)

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Showing 1-5 of 543 (next | show all)
William Golding

Lord of the Flies

Faber and Faber, Paperback, 2011.

8vo. x+235. Introduction by Stephen King [v-x].

First published, 1954.
This paperback edition first published, 2011.


1. The Sound of the Shell
2. Fire on the Mountain
3. Huts on the Beach
4. Painted Faces and Long Hair
5. Beast from Water
6. Beast from Air
7. Shadows and Tall Trees
8. Gift for the Darkness
9. A View of Death
10. The Shell and the Glasses
11. Castle Rock
12. Cry of the Hunters


The rumour has it that Beethoven, after hearing the Funeral March from Paer’s opera Achille, made the cryptic remark “I must compose that!” Translated this means: “The piece has potential, but this crashing mediocrity Paer has no idea how to realise it. I do.” I wonder if Stephen King, who claims to have read Lord of the Flies at least four or five times, ever thought “I must write that!” I wish he had. It would have been a great book then. Now it’s a great idea wasted.

The first thing that impressed me about this novel was the atrocious writing. It reminds me, alas, of Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451 (1953). The same inelegant sentences. The same clumsy storytelling. The same stilted dialogue. The same laboured descriptions. The same schoolboy trying to write poetically after his first Creative Writing Workshop. Here are two random examples from the very first chapter, a description of the island and some poetry in prose gone all wrong:

It was roughly boat-shaped: humped near this end with behind them the jumbled descent to the shore. On either side rocks, cliffs, treetops and a steep slope: forward there, the length of the boat, a tamer descent, tree-clad, with hints of pink: and then the jungly flat of the island, dense green, but drawn at the end to a pink tail. There, where the island petered out in water, was another island; a rock, almost detached, standing like a fort, facing them across the green with one bold, pink bastion.

Here and there, little breezes crept over the polished waters beneath the haze of heat. When these breezes reached the platform the palm fronds would whisper, so that spots of blurred sunlight slid over their bodies or moved like bright, winged things in the shade.

As you might notice, “pink” is Golding’s favourite word. It is used three times in the first paragraph above and about forty times in the whole novel. No doubt it has deep sexual and political undertones, but I personally don’t care about them.

Nor do I care about phrases like “shouted experimentally”, “filthily dirty”, “blatant impossibility”, “riotous colours”, “impalpable organs” or “wetness warmer than blood”, among plenty of others. That’s what happens when you’re trying hard to write “creatively”. You raise pretentiousness to new heights. Several examples more for your personal delectation. Enjoy:

The sun in the west was a drop of burning gold that slid nearer and nearer the sill of the world.

The sun slanted in and lay golden over half the platform. The breezes that on the lagoon had chased their tails like kittens were finding their way across the platform and into the forest. Ralph pushed back the tangle of fair hair that hung on his forehead.

Another voice told him not to be a fool; and the darkness and desperate enterprise gave the night a kind of dentist’s chair unreality.

Down, down, the waters went, whispering like the wind among the heads of the forest. There was one flat rock there, spread like a table, and the waters sucking down on the four weedy sides made them seem like cliffs.

Ralph put his hand in the cold, soft ashes of the fire and smothered a cry. His hand and shoulder were twitching from the unlooked-for contact. Green lights of nausea appeared for a moment and ate into the darkness.

They walked along, two continents of experience and feeling, unable to communicate.
“If I could only get a pig!”
“I’ll come back and go on with the shelter.”
They looked at each other, baffled, in love and hate. All the warm salt water of the bathing pool and the shouting and splashing and laughing were only just sufficient to bring them together again.

There is an important difference, though. Bradbury is a mediocre writer. Golding is a mediocre writer and a mediocre mind. Quite a difference indeed! And fatal to a book which works – if it works at all – only as an allegorical picture of our society. It’s foolish to discuss plot and characters here: there are none. Golding cared nothing about such trifles. Ralph, Jack, Piggy and Simon are barely individualised beyond dull shadows. Simon, indeed, is not even that. The book is full of lame and childish crimes that no writer over 16 should commit.

Why those few and vague hints of nuclear war in the beginning? Because it was the most popular form of mass hysteria in the 1950s and had to be included in every piece of fiction, never mind how irrelevant it might be. Why revealing the nature of the beast in the middle, long before any of the boys discovers it? Because Golding didn’t have the least idea how to use his material in a dramatic way. Why introducing the title “character” out of the blue only to drop him completely a few pages later? Why dispensing with Simon so quickly? Why spending so little time in Ralph’s head – and much less in Jack’s? Because William Golding was a crashing mediocrity. That’s why.

As for the allegory, it is obvious and facile. Symbols are an easy way out in the first place. They can symbolise anything you like. Relying too much on them is a sure sign of artistic impotence. Anyway, it is not hard to find parallels between Golding’s island boys and the adult of portion of the so-called “civilised” society. This last is also made of careless blundering and mindless fun. It also lacks elementary foresight. It also indulges in silly superstitions. It also hunts people who show mere common sense. It also seizes every opportunity to descend into savagery.

It’s not hard to see this. It’s obvious. You can find a lot more with very little ingenuity. But you will find it, not because you see it, but because this is a “modern classic” on the list of Modern Library, BBC and who not, because it has been drilled into your head in some classroom that every childish prank on these pages has mighty symbolic significance, because Golding got the Nobel Prize for literature and other such really quite irrelevant things.

If you stand back and at least try to free your mind from all that cant, you will see nothing more than a very superficial piece of fiction written in some of the worst English prose ever published. But, of course, you don’t have to do that. You can always choose somebody else to do your thinking and even your feeling.

If only Stephen King had written that novel! With his trenchant storytelling, relentless probing into human nature and matchless gift for creating children on paper (“The Body”, “Low Men in Yellow Coats”), he would have made something powerful and memorable out of it. Ralph, Jack, Piggy and Simon would have been some of those characters that sear themselves into memory, not a bunch of ciphers hard to remember half an hour after the last page. Their island odyssey would have been a terrifying glimpse into the darkest corners of human nature, not a tedious romp in the jungle.

Sure, King’s novel would have been thrice longer and more than a little long-winded in places. But it would have been also genuinely thrilling, scary and thought-provoking. Golding’s schoolboy exercise in creative writing is nothing of this. I am not surprised it was his first novel, though I am fairly astonished it was written in his forties. I am not at all curious if he improved in his dozen of later novels. I shall happily remain ignorant of them all. ( )
3 vote Waldstein | Oct 1, 2019 |
Lord of the Flies, by William Golding

Man, I did read this book back in 1997 and even now in 2018 I am still hunted in my dreams...!

It was just so AWFUL!

This book is a 1954 novel by a British author and focuses on a group of British boys stranded on an island and their attempt to govern themselves, which does not work out so good.

I have an intense and passionate dislike for this book and I regret it until today to have to read it in middle school. From the bottom of my heart I resent this abomination! Even thinking of it now pains my stomach, I detest each single page of this large pile of paper.

I am not and never was interested in its many diffuse allegoric levels, the central theme about conflicting human impulses in regards to social organisation and the will to power didn’t interest me a tiny little bit, not even between the lines of this opuscule.

Groupthink vs individuality, rational and emotional reactions, morality vs immorality with these boring tots did not concern me the slightest. In total these themes form the major subtext of Lord of the flies, but I did not feel it and will never feel it!

I also give a damn that the name „Lord of the flies“ is a literal translation of Beelzebub from the Bible.

I was just happy reaching the last page!

( )
  Torijama | Sep 5, 2019 |
This was Golding’s debut novel, and probably the only book for which he is known by most people. Which must have rankled. I have a feeling I read this at school, perhaps when I was eleven or twelve, although the only novels I remember reading at that time as part of my schooling are Cider with Rosie and The Cruel Sea. But I did read a lot then. In fact, it was around that time I was introduced to science fiction when a lad in my class lent me a copy of Starman Jones. Another boy in the year below me then lent me some EE ‘Doc’ Smith Lensman novels… and the rest, as they say, is history. Lord of the Flies has sort of entered British culture and its central conceit is part of the country’s popular consciousness. That conceit is, of course, schoolboys marooned on a desert island who start behaving like, well, children. Everyone remembers Piggy and his glasses, but he’s not the focus of the story. (I’ve not seen the film adaptation, from 1963 or 1990, so I don’t know if either made changes.) There is Ralph, mysterious and charismatic (and reads like Golding recalling a school boycrush), who is more or less dragooned into leadership. And there is Jack, leader of a choir, who fancies himself a leader (so is the Boris Johnson of the group). Ralph rightly insists on a signal fire to attract the attention of any passing ship. But Jack is more interested in hunting wild pigs. The conflict splits the group of schoolboys, and Piggy is accidentally killed. It has been said that Lord of the Flies is not as universal as it’s proclaimed to be, because its cast consists entirely of white British schoolboys (mostly) from the middle classes and above. This is only a problem if you think Lord of the Flies was intended to be, well, universal. I don’t think it is. It’s about public schoolboys (well, mostly; I think a few are not). If Golding was making a point that might be applicable to a much wider group then he wouldn’t have been so careful about the make-up of the marooned boys and their group dynamics. I know very little, I admit, about Golding’s life, or his thoughts on writing, so I may be projecting. But Lord of the Flies strikes me as too carefully staged and cast to be chiefly allegorical – an assumption based on a reading of only third of his oeuvre, I admit. But careful writers are careful writers, and careful writing is a good indicator of a habit of carefulness, much as a history of stupid decisions is a good indicator of stupidity (hello, Boris Johnson). I finished Lord of the Flies surprised it was Golding’s best-known work as it felt too slight. And this after reading The Pyramid and The Paper Men. Perversely, though they felt too much like what they were, they also felt more… considered than Lord of the Flies. This is not to say it’s a bad book, but it is more of an historical document than its reputation would suggest. Read it by all means, but Golding wrote more interesting novels and they would be better reads. ( )
  iansales | Aug 24, 2019 |
I was captivated by how much symbolism can be packed in such a short book. Many friends had recommended this novel and now I see why.

The action centers on a group of children stranded on an island trying to get rescued. Although they all agree at first, they soon start showing their differences, showcasing the many desires hidden by a normal society. I won't give an exhaustive analysis on such a studied book, instead let me just say that the praise for this book is well earned ( )
  andycyca | Aug 6, 2019 |
The second half of the book is just wow! I have never liked reading the details of the scenes much, sometimes they can be so superfluous and un-necessary... But in this book each scene is so nicely explained that u can actually visualise everything clearly... And the climax is truly classic... Must read... ( )
  Mayank_Jain | Jul 28, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 543 (next | show all)
There is no blinking the fact that this English schoolmaster turned novelist understands growing boys to the heart; one must go back to"High Wind in Jamaica" to find a comparable tour de force. The uneasy conviction persists that he despises the child who is father to the man-and the man as well. Homo sapiens needs all the friends he can find these days, in and out of novels.
added by Shortride | editThe New York Times, William du Bois (pay site) (Oct 21, 1955)
"Lord of the Flies" is an allegory on human society today, the novel's primary implication being that what we have come to call civilization is, at best, skin deep. With undertones of "1984" and "High Wind in Jamaica," this brilliant work is a frightening parody on man's return (in a few weeks) to that state of darkness from which it took him thousands of years to return. Fully to succeed, a fantasy must approach very close to reality. "Lord of the Flies" does. It must also be superbly written. It is.
added by Shortride | editThe New York Times Book Review, James Stern (pay site) (Oct 23, 1954)

» Add other authors (36 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Golding, WilliamAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Akyol, ÖzcanForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Damsma, HarmTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davidson, AndrewCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Déry, TiborTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Epstein, E. L.Afterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Forster, E. M.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gregor, IanIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grieken, Roderik vanAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jessurun d'Oliveira, H.U.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
King, StephenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kinkead-Weekes, MarkIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miedema, NiekTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perkki, JuhanaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smolka, DieterHerausgebersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For my mother and father
First words
The boy with fair hair lowered himself down the last few feet of rock and began to pick his way toward the lagoon.
The urge to put things into categories seems to satisfy some deep human need and in this matter at least, critics and historians of literature are very human people indeed. (Introduction)
His voice rose under the black smoke before the burning wreckage of the island; and infected by that emotion, the other little boys began to shake and sob too. And in the middle of them, with filthy body, matted hair, and unwiped nose, Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.
Maybe there is a beast - maybe it's only us.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
When Lord of the Flies appeared in 1954 it received unprecedented reviews for a first novel. Critics used such phrases as "beautifully written, tragic and provocative...vivid and enthralling...this beautiful and desperate book...completely convincing and often very frightening...its progress is magnificent...like a fragment of nightmare...a dizzy climax of terror...the terrible spell of this book..." E.M. Forster chose it as the Outstanding Novel of the Year. Time and Tide touched upon perhaps the most important facet of this book when it said, "It is not only a first-rate adventure story but a parable of our times," and articles on this and subsequent Golding novels have stressed these twin aspects of Golding: a consummate control of the novel form, and a superb all-encompassing vision of reality which communicates itself with a power reminiscent of Conrad.

AR Level 5.0, 9 Pts.
Haiku summary
Diverging lenses
To start a fire? Golding knew
Nothing of optics.

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