I finally had to read Lord of the Flies for tutoring purposes, because it is a required reading for our national high school English finals, and at first it wasn’t as bad as I had expected from all the bad things I had heard about it. I thought that the boys’ behaviour wasn’t really any different from how contemporary kids would behave in a similar situation.
About two thirds in, however, I had to start agreeing: it was really that bad.
And in the end, I am not so sure the behaviour was just a result of the boys’ spoiled rich British origin. Perhaps any other group of people (children) in the same uncontrollable, helpless, and scary situation would eventually react similarly.
I will not even touch the issue of gender and the lack of girls in the book – I do wonder whether things would be worse or better if the group included girls – since Golding himself was unwilling to explore that and was only able to ask questions regarding that possibility himself.
My edition included study materials with useful chapter summaries and discussion/reflection questions and additional information on the issues connected with the novel, which were its saving grace.
It also included Golding’s essay on fables and his intentions regarding what he wanted to show about the human nature and how it is governed by nationalism and prejudice, especially in connection with Nazism and fascism, which are certainly important issues to consider (and beware of perpetuating) yet again nowadays.
Golding does manage to show the worst of human nature when unfettered by societal constraints and bolstered by fear (of the unknown, other) and I definitely agree with his notion that we are all capable of the same atrocities if we fail to check ourselves and each other to keep from succumbing to fear, prejudice, and other-ing specific groups people.
However, I believe that without accompanying materials and guidance the readers who are unaware of the story's connection to British exceptionalism and colonialism cannot really discern these themes and their messages, especially not ESL students who are struggling with understanding the language itself.
Even without language understanding issues, I could only see the aforementioned connotations while reading through the additional materials. Hence, I believe that among literally millions of books out there, our national board for HS English finals could have certainly found a better book to teach about such important topics as the dangers of nationalism and prejudice in present times.