Book Review: Lord of the Flies

Image Source: Amazon

Title: Lord of the Flies 

Author: William Golding 

Publisher: Penguin Books 

Genre: Allegory 

Format: Novel 

Number of pages: 290 

Publish date: 1954 

Originally published in 1954, Lord of the Flies is one of the most read modern classics. It is taught in many schools and was adapted into a movie.  

Synopsis of The Lord of the Flies  

When a plane crashes on a desert Island, the only survivors are a group of schoolboys. They take up residence on the beach and wait to be rescued. However, this Island is not as it seems. By day, it is magical – full of colour. By night, something lurks. The boys are being hunted by a terrifying beast, and they cannot help but turn on one another. They create structure, build homes, and allocate roles. And yet, they continue to but heads. Their group quickly becomes divided, and they struggle to survive when separated.  

Ralph, the acting chief, encourages the group to keep a fire smoking. But when some members of the group object, everything falls apart. Instead of hunting pigs, they hunt each other. This novel was intended to reflect society and paint it as a dog-eat-dog world.  


A plane crashes on a deserted beach, around the time of WW2, and the only survivors are a group of schoolboys. Ralph, befriends Piggy, who receives abuse from the other characters for his weight. Having found a conch, Ralph creates a signal to encourage any other survivors to meet at the top of a small hill. Slowly, more boys make their appearance, varied in age. They select a leader – Ralph – much to a boy named Jack’s annoyance. Jack is the leader of a choir group. They choose this group to be the hunters. They rotate the boys looking after the fire, so that it always stays lit, ensuring their rescue. However, when Jack’s group do not follow through with the plan, and forfeit looking after the fire, problems arise. 

Ralph and Jack do not get along. Jack is jealous of Ralph and wants nothing but to take control of the group. However, Ralph is reluctant to give up his place as leader, so Jack decides to split off from the group, taking the choristers with him.  

With the beast on the prowl, though, the Island is not safe for anyone. It lurks about the hills choosing who to strike next, keeping the youngest awake at night.  


Ralph takes the centre lead, Jack, and Piggy not far behind. We follow the story, mostly, through the eyes of 12-year-old Ralph. Ralph appears more mature than the others, intent on keeping their small society as civilised as possible. The other characters vary in age and hold less of an importance throughout the novel. Some of the side characters, like Simon, play a relatively small role, but one might consider it quite important, as it highlights how some become the influences, and others the influenced. The lack of adult characters allows for a new civilisation to be made and offers a unique narrative. One could say that Jack acts as the villain of this story due to his attitude towards their rescue and desire for power.  


William Golding was part of the navy during WW2. It is safe to say that he has seen the worst humanity has to offer, and this is reflected in his novel. William Golding was also a headmaster of an all-boys school, so he has a good understanding of the nature of young boys. Golding’s work highlights the idea that fun can quickly turn to savagery, especially if there is no one to enforce the rules. He may have also wanted to suggest ideas about just how inevitable savagery is, especially among the younger generations.

At this time, Britain was still recovering from the effects of WW2. The cruelty of humans was still fresh in everyone’s mind, and this is reflected in The Lord of the Flies. However, I would argue that today, this novel holds less value. The truth held within the allegory is brought into question by people like Mariwan Hasan, who wrote a paper on how The Lord of the Flies should be reconsidered. She argued that at the time it was written, there was a lot of hurt within the nation, and this has encouraged Golding to view humans in an overly negative way. This hurt is not as powerful today, and when we consider how youths may react to being put on an island together, we consider the matter differently.  


And so, one must take the context of the novel into account when reading this, as Golding’s work is considered questionable today. Particularly its relevance. During the 50s, The Lord of the Flies would have fitted ideas about human nature. The novel was interesting and exhilarating. But now students struggle to read it without questioning its worth. Personally, I found the novel boring, occasionally horrifying. I doubt anything like this would ever come about, since there have been real-life events that oppose Golding’s argument. This novel is considered a must-read book by many, but if you understand the allegory it is presenting, there is no harm in missing this one.  

Overall Rating: 3/10 – Flawed

To purchase The Lord of the Flies, click here

For additional information regarding William Golding, click here

To access Mariwan Hasan’s paper, click here