Lord of the Flies
William Golding’s Lord of the Flies was published in 1954, as the Cold War was intensifying. The mid-20th century’s “clash of civilisations” pitted Western democracy against Communist totalitarianism in China and the Soviet Union. In Golding’s novel, this cold war of ideas has turned hot, and a group of English schoolboys are being evacuated when their aeroplane crashes on a remote island. At first, they attempt to establish a sense of order and fairness — but as rivalries and superstitions emerge, the boys soon turn to faction, violence and savagery. “The theme of Lord of the Flies is grief,” wrote Golding when the novel was published. “Sheer grief, grief, grief.”
The boys have been raised in a “civilised” English culture which prides itself on democracy, reason and fairness. This is embodied by Ralph, who tries to establish order and looks out for the needs of the group. But Jack’s opposition wins popularity among the boys and shows that, given the chance, more savage instincts can prevail. How do we think about civilisation 60 years on?
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