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Why I Hate Lord of the Flies by William Golding
What is it about Lord of the Flies that makes us hate the book, and yet we insist our children read it?
Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a shocking and depressing book about a group of boys stranded on an isolated island. You watch, first hand, as the boys descend into savagery, butchery, and lose their civilized veneer.
I loathed the book when I was required to read it in the 8th grade.
And yet here I am insisting my own children read the classic novel. So what is it about Lord of the Flies that actually makes it a worthwhile read for teenagers?
- One reason is the underlying premise that we’re all savage beasts underneath our civilized surface. The savage beast is tamed only by social constraints and expectations. Are we truly beasts with only a thin veneer of civilization over our true selves?
- The characters are memorable. Jack, Ralph, Simon, and Piggy are not easy characters to forget as you watch them deal with the isolation of the island. Simon’s innate goodness stands in marked contrast with Jack’s embrace of the inner beast. Does Simon’s murder mean that in the end evil will win out over good?
- William Golding’s use of symbols is an excellent way to introduce symbolism in literature to teens. The book is exploding with symbols from hunting, to Piggy’s glasses, and the slash of the crash through the foliage of the island. What does the character Piggy symbolize in the Lord of the Flies?
- The theme of the book is the fundamental dichotomy within people, savagery or civilization, good versus evil, order versus chaos. It opens a discussion with the children on whether we believe people are fundamentally good or fundamentally evil. These are discussions teens need to have with their parents and teachers as they are forming their adult worldview.
- Many books, movies, and TV shows are also based upon an individual or group lost on an island or planet. It’s an excellent method to compare and contrast using the same setting to develop different themes. One of my teens asked me why when Lord of the Flies is so similar to Lost, does she hate Lord of the Flies yet loves the TV show Lost?
Lord of the Flies by William Golding may be one of those hated classic novels teens have been tormented with for several generations.
However, the very fact that you watch teenage boys descend into savagery lends itself to excellent discussions. We’ve had many discussions around the kitchen table about why the boys acted the way they did. And would we do the same, stranded on a deserted island?
If you haven’t read Lord of the Flies with your teenagers yet, you should do so. Even if you hated it in high school. The conversation it starts is still relevant to our lives today.
And your teenagers will benefit from both reading Lord of the Flies and discussing it with you afterward.