First of all, let me apologize for my extremely extended absence of the past 18 months! It turns out that teaching English means a major reduction in reading novels and books of my choice – who would have guessed? But I’m back, and it seemed fitting that my very first review in a very long time would be the first full-length work of fiction that I taught to my 10th graders: Lord of the Flies.
Full disclosure: I HATE Lord of the Flies! I hated it when I read it in high school, I didn’t particularly love it when I re-read it to prepare to teach it, and I absolutely, completely despised it when I taught it (with, I now realize, way too much detail) to my classes in the fall.
The plot is one that is likely familiar to many. During WWII, an airplane full of young British boys crashes on an island and no adults survive. Throughout the novel, the boys struggle to create a society and maintain routine and civility, but ultimately fail, becoming lawless savages.
For me, there’s nothing particularly thrilling in the plot – though it is an excellent tool to teach symbolism and the historical context surrounding WWII (the author, William Golding, had a particularly interesting experience as a child during WWI and a soldier during WWII that led to his less than positive views about humanity). Though the story of innocent children slowly becoming monsters is an interesting one, I think much of the plot gets lost in lengthy descriptions of the island and a very long and detailed downward spiral into barbarism. The characters are not particularly relatable, or well-drawn. Ultimately, the novel’s theme – that all humans are born with evil that in the right conditions (chaos and fear) will manifest itself – is one that is not particularly pleasant to read about. Nonetheless, it’s a novel that nearly every graduate of a U.S. high school has read – it’s part of the canon that I expect will be seeing quite a few changes in the next several years. If you want to be part of the conversation, pick up this book at your local library (it’s not worth owning). If not, use your time to read something more enjoyable! I’m giving Lord of the Flies 1 star and bracing myself to teach it with a positive attitude to all my future 10th grade students! ★