By: William Golding
“Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.”
WHAT. A. RIDE.
To be perfectly honest, I was bored stiff through the first two chapters, not fully comprehending the deeper meaning found within the superficial descriptions of the island, the boys or their activities. Golding certainly takes readers on a ride, but rather than a rollercoaster, it’s more like a waterslide – one where you have to wait for aaages in line while carrying a floater and slowly climbing to the top, until you finally get to the climax, get in that floater and everything suddenly drops, your body rushing with pent-up adrenaline.
The novel opens with two boys – Ralph and Piggy wandering through the forest on a deserted island. Finding themselves a tribe of boys, much like Peter Pan’s ‘lost boys’, they elect Ralph as Chief. However, rather than a Captain James Hook as the antagonist, Ralph has a Jack Merridew.
It was only when chapter nine rolled around, that I became fully captivated. Firstly, by Simon, the ‘mystic’, outcast, loner, weirdo of the group, with his “bright eyes” that created a striking image, coupled with his discovery of the truth behind the mysterious Beast. His untimely death left me speechless, making me question everything about these boys. Like – how in the world are they going to integrate back into society after performing such horrific acts? Who, in their right mind, would actually take these boys back in and allow them to live in their house? It was at this point that I realized, as Golding writes, “The world, that understandable and lawful world, was slipping away” from these boys, and there was nothing and no one to stop it from happening.
My favorite character, by far, was Ralph, as well as Sam and Eric, later referred to as Samneric. It took me a while to fully understand Ralph’s character, as he initially came off as a prideful, self-assured boy with the potential to become a full blown bully (to Piggy). It was only when he called an assembly and asserted his position as Chief that I became fully supportive of his character. In my eyes, he had now become a mature authority figure with pure intentions, wanting only the best for the boys. So, when Jack was hunting him down towards the end of the novel, I found myself on the edge of my roller chair, forehead creased in concentration as I desperately waited to discover whether he would survive.
Samneric may not be a popular choice for favorites, but they were easy to identify with as they attempted to stick with Ralph and do the right thing, yet ultimately sided with Jack to protect themselves in order to survive. What can I say? They remind me of almost everyone in the world today, attempting to do good, but when under pressure, conforming to the expectations of society….
The one character that I disliked the most was Piggy. (I know, I know, maybe most people hate Jack for his violence…. but what can I say) I found him to be whiny, a know-it-all, and more than anything extremely needy. Despite his intelligence, he had the personality of the most annoying person you know, and the emotional intelligence of a two-year-old. Despite Ralph siding with him towards the end of the novel, calling him a true friend, and standing up for him, I just could not bring myself to do the same. Maybe it’s just me, but it is what it is I guess.
If I could change one thing, it would simply be to make chapters 3-5 somewhat more interesting, as I found myself phasing in and out of the story (Sorry to Golding and his fans…). However, as novel progressed to its climax with the boys drawing lines and becoming more violent, the pace certainly picked up speed, drawing me in, eager to discover what happens next (Did I redeem myself? Or more importantly, what does that say about me!?).
Finishing the book, I wasn’t really sure what to feel… Horrified? Shocked? Confused? When Golding poses the question “What are we? Humans? Or animals? Or savages?” it prompts a moment of self-reflection, where I found myself asking, would I be capable of doing the same things these boys have done? The scary thing is, given the right circumstances and environment, I think that everyone COULD. It’s more a question of WOULD you…?
Normally I try to hold off any reservations about the book until I finish, but the first two chapters were soooooo boring that I was tempted to give this book a rating of 2 or 3 at the most. It was only after re-reading the book, researching, and delving deeper into the different characters, symbols and themes of the novel that I began to fully appreciate and understand what Golding had set out to do when he wrote the novel. While the novel has its flaws, it certainly redeems itself upon closer inspection, giving it a solid rating of 4/5.