Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lord of the Flies - William Golding

"What makes things break up like they do?"

Lost is nothing else than the most recent reincarnation of a mental exercise present in Western civilization since Voltaire's Candide: what would a group of people in an uninhabited island look like? The objective of this question is to speculate on the true nature of men: optimists think that man is inherently good, so the group would eventually build up an utopia; pessimists, predictably, argue that the members of this hypothetical society would kill each other. 

The Cold War version of this mental exercise is Lord of the Flies, a book written by William Golding in the mid 50s, which earned him the Nobel Prize later on. Being a citizen of the second half the 20th century, Golding added an innovative twist to the Voltairean question: instead of grown ups, the inhabitants of the solitary island would be boys (there are no female characters in this novel).

Like other books written by Nobel Prize winners such as Herman Hesse's Demian, Lord of the Flies is a required reading in most middle school programs. Six out of the first 10 entries in Google for this book are synopsis and ready-to-turn-in essays which is, I guess, a testimony of the validity of  this book as a school text (1 of the remaining entries is the link to Amazon, and the other 3 are links to the movie, in case you were wondering). 

School kids obviously have to read something, but I think that framing Lord of the Flies as a book for teenagers is a mistake. Considering that kids are a product of the education provided by adults, it is the latter who benefit the most from seeing what the former might become if left on their own in an non supervised environment. Let me put it this way: if you are an adult and think that your child might end up acting like one of the characters of Lord of the Flies, you are doing something very wrong.

The Nobel Prize Foundation has this interactive game on Lord of the Flies to help children to prepare their exams.

And you can hear Golding motivation to write this book (and why he didn't include any girls in it) in this video:

PS. ("chased from hell to breakfast"; great expression)

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