[Marxism] Lord of the Flies
gary.maclennan1 at gmail.com
Sun Aug 1 23:03:26 MDT 2010
I have had occasion recently to teach this book again after a gap of nearly
45 years. What is evident to me now looking at the novel again is that
William Golding's basic assumptions about humanity are very dark. Quite
simply his thesis is that humanity = a piece of shit. However because he is
an artist he can structure this very banal thought into a series of dramatic
events.The basic technique would appear to be that of the spiral. First the
event is briefly and fleetingly broached, then it is returned to in more
this is how the topic of evil appears. First the little ones speak of a
beast. This talk is dismissed. Then one of the little ones seemingly
vanishes, but nobody can explain this, nor are they sure it has happened and
in any case they will not talk about it.
Then there is a fuller discussion (round p. 111) and here the central
conflict at this discussion is between Piggy and Simon, but he disguises
this with a lot of sleight of hand about holding the conch, which conveys
the right to speak at the assembleys. It would seem that the major
protagonists at the discussion are jJack and Ralph, but it is Piggy's ideas
versus Simon's ideas that Golding is targeting.
Piggy is fully of common sense and routine. The Piggys of the world get up,
walk to the station, buy the paper, sit there on the train and read it,
get to their office and then repeat the whole procedure backwards. Arrive
home and go to bed and so on for the rest of their lives. They question
nothing and take all for granted.
Simon is however at a different level. He is the mystic who wants to see
into the heart of things and what he sees deeply disturbs him. He sees that
humanity is intrinsically flawed/ evil or a piece of dirt. His encounter
with the beast is strange and quite mystical. Simon gets into a dialogue
with the head of a pig which has been put on a stake as a sacrifice to the
"beast". The pig is presented as saying to Simon - "You knew didn't you?
I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I'm the reason why it's no go? why
things are what they are?"
Mystics close the distance between themselves and god - they merge with
their creator - whatever that is and then fall into silence. So Simon merges
into an awareness of the dark forces within himself.
No mystical union is ever likely to happen to Piggy because day to day
living has dulled his consciousness, but Simon lives on a deeper plane of
Now what of the central thesis humanity = piece of shit? What are the
political implications of it? Well of course there is no point in reforming
anything because humanity is shit and will always make a mess of it. Life is
doomed to be nasty brutish and short as Hobbes put it. Better to leave
things as they are in case they get worse. That is the heart of the
conservatism of Golding's art. It helps of course to have a conservative
view of the world if one is at the same born into a middle class family and
becomes a success later in life.
In any case, we get the kind of dystopic classic which can safely be
recommended for generations upon generations of school boys. In many ways
Lord of the Flies is the natural successor to Animal Farm./
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