William Golding was born in 1911 in Cornwall. He studied natural science and English literature in Oxford. After graduating he worked as an actor and a writer. Then he began teaching English.
During the Second World War he enlisted in the Royal Navy and he was shocked by the violence of the war and the evil he witnessed. Soon he lost the idea that an innocent nature is the real human characteristic. He began to believe that even children are inherently evil, this gives him the idea for his most famous novel, Lord of the Flies. At the end of the war Golding returning to teaching English and Philosophy.
His first novel, Lord of the Flies, come out in 1954.
Golding’s next novel, The Inheritors, continued to develop the idea of the inherent violence which makes up human nature. Golding won the Booker Prize and the Nobel Prize for literature, and he died in 1993.
During an atomic war a group of boys are evacuated from England, but the plane carrying them crashes on a deserted island. Two of the survivors, Ralph and Piggy, find a conch shell and when Ralph blows into it several boys arrive on the scene. Once they are all together, Ralph is elected chief.
When some of the Jack’s boys forget to keep fire, tensions emerge in the little community:
Ralph realizes that the boys fail to do their tasks and becomes very angry when a ship passes but doesn’t rescue them because Jack and the choirboys have let fire die out.
One night two of the youngest boys see the body of a dead parachutist dangling in the air, and they mistake him for a beast. So the boys set out to hunt this beast and Jack and his followers kill a sow, place its head on a stick and leave it behind as a gift for the beast. The fly-covered pig’s head becomes the Lord of the Flies.
Simon, an intelligence boy, doubts the existence of the beast and discovers the dead parachutist, thus realizing that the beast is not an animal but exist in each boy’s soul. He tries to reassure the other boys but they kill him.
Jack’s group steals Piggy’s glasses and Ralph and Piggy go to Jack’s camp to ask for them back. A boy from Jack’s group drops a rock on Piggy’s head killing him and shattering the conch shell he is holding.
Ralph manages to escape and hide: Jack sets fire to the trees; a passing ship sees the smoke and a naval officer reaches the island just in time to save Ralph’s life and rescue the rest of the boys.
Characters. All the characters in the novel are children and have certain symbolic qualities.
The principal character, Ralph, is understanding, determined, rational, sensible and strong. Ralph, after becoming leader, tries to solve problems democratically, and, for this, represent courage and democracy.
The confrontation between Ralph and Jack is a metaphor for the eternal confrontation between reason and democracy on one side and the desire of power, violence and savagery on the other.
Piggy occupies a weaker position in the group and represent the loser, but also the rationality, the faith in scientific progress and the voice of wisdom. He is overweight and suffers from asthma but he is also very intelligent, likeable and friendly.
Simon is the intelligent and sensitive seeker of truth who disbelieves in the idol. He is very helpful with the other boys especially with Ralph and the younger boys; and generous, sacrificing himself for the group.
Symbology. In addition to the characters there are some object and figure with symbolic relevance.
The conch for example is clearly a symbol of democracy, order, respect and harmony but also Ralph’s authority. When it is crushed, civilized order vanishes and it is substituted by violence and fear.
The beast stands for the fear of the unknown but it can also represent the attitude that everyone has for evil.
The Lord of the Flies is the translation of the Greek name Beelzebub, one of the names that the Christian tradition attributed to Satan, and it symbolizes the evil and death.
The novel stemmed from cruelty and the brutality that Golding had witnessed during the Second World War, and in fact it reflects post-war disenchantment with human nature.
It has been depicted as a dystopia, the reverse of a conventional utopia: a description of an imaginary society highly undesirable and frightening.
The horror is intensified by the fact that the characters are children, who find a natural paradise and slowly transform it into a hell. There is an evident parallelism between this children’s story and the contemporary adult’s world: the evil afflicting the adult world is re-enacted by the children, and the innocence is destroyed.
The major suggestion of the novel is that evil isn’t an external force but lies inside us all: Golding attacks Rousseau’s idea that humans are rational and good if left in their natural state.
Golding’s concern for realism is apparent in the way he differentiates characters by the shades of language they use. Piggy stands out not only for his physical characteristics and for his imperturbable wisdom but for the kind of language he speaks; that underlines his differences from the other boys.
He belongs to the lower middle-classes and speaks in a language which appears grammatically and syntactically incorrect. This language is Cockney, a variety of southern English dialect spoken in London.
Piggy omits the auxiliaries in compound tenses and questions and often leaves out the subjects; he has a tendency to use the third person ending for all persons; he uses multiple negations, contractions, abbreviations and misspellings.
The fresh, vivid metaphors help to construct a textual richness, and striking effects are obtained by the use of words chosen for their pictorial value.
The narrator is a third-person narrator but not omniscient, and records what happens and what people say. He rarely intrudes.