The relevance of Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies is a timeless piece of work following the central theme of the journey from boyhood to manhood. William Golding described writing his novel as ‘like lamenting the lost childhood of the world’.

Here is how the Marcus Romer the director of a play version of Lord of the Flies described his vision of Golding’s work.

Golding wrote this play in the aftermath of the Second World War. He saw the horrific things that people did to each other when they found themselves in desperate situations. As a writer he had to find a metaphor, the behaviour of young boys, to stand for the behaviour of all mankind. Golding’s dystopian view of things going terribly wrong, is coming true, and we can see for ourselves that extreme situations do bring out extreme reactions. All sorts of atrocities are played out on our screens, from Afghanistan and Iraq, from Hammersmith to Columbine. There’s a number of programmes that have been created in the shadow of Lord of the Flies, from I’m a Celebrity and to all those Castaway type programmes. There was even a reconstruction of a mini Lord of the Flies when a group of children were left alone in a large house. We have a fascination with wanting to see how people react in those situations. Lost is a very similar idea as a piece of TV drama. In this century, since 9/11, we seem to be living between something. We’ve had the start of something and we haven’t had the final chapter. This affects the kind of drama people are writing: things that are apocalyptic and, like Lost, don’t have any end. We are living in an uncharted, unstable world under threat from climate change, food shortages, terrorism and war. In the novel, the cataclysmic event, which the boys believe has happened to the rest of the world, is the atom bomb. Young people today wonder whether there will be a world for them to grow up into. It is easy to see how a group of boys then, just as now, could believe they might be the only people left alive in the world.

“after the war…I had discovered what one man could do to another… [what could be done] skillfully, coldly, by educated men, doctors, lawyers, by men with a tradition of civilisation behind them, to beings of their own kind.”

William Golding in his essay “Fable”


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