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For Anyone Who Has Read Lord of The Flies

lord of the fliesThe first time I read William Goldings Lord of The Flies, I was in sixth grade, the approximate age of many of the children in the novel. If you’ve never read it–or perhaps even if you have–the story is more complex than it seems: kids get marooned on island and turn into tribes that eventually start killing each other. But that’s usually as deep into the book as many of its detractors care to go. There’s a lot more.

The sixth-grade me that read the book was incredibly disturbed. The 33 year old me that just read the book again in February of 2011 finds it just as disturbing. I think I’d be unsettled if I picked it up one day and found that it didn’t rattle me.

But it happens. I recently had a discussion with a 12 year old boy in the library. He thought the book was boring, a viewpoint that certainly isn’t confined to children. I’ll admit, much of the book is pretty dry. When I asked him what books he loved, he immediately started talking about The Hunger Games. I loved that one as well, but in my mind, it’s the same story as LOTF. Kids forced to fight in an arena. Just like Battle Royale, which he also mentioned. These are what he would have called adventure books for young adults.

The difference between those books and Lord of the Flies is primarily, in my opinion, the paucity of graphic violence in the original. The scene where the boys kill the pig is by far the most savage in terms of detail and allotted word count. I may be wrong, but I have not heard the amount of outrage about these more recent books. When Lord came out there was some serious unhappiness. On the other hand, when Mockingjay came out, we had a midnight release party at the library and transformed the lower urban room into an arena for games and laughs.

But The Hunger Games and Battle Royale are incredibly graphic. Not only are kids pitted against one another, it happens as entertainment, at the whims of adults. This boy liked the books that much more because they were bloody. I’m not assuming–that is what he told me.

This isn’t meant as one of those “Kids these days…” rants. I wasn’t sure how I felt about what he said. I’m still not. Here’s my question for you that have read Lord of The Flies: did you enjoy it? Why or why not? Is it more disturbing than other similarly-themed books “these days?”


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  • Patrick Tracy March 8, 2011, 6:36 pm

    I found Lord of the Flies very disturbing when I read it. Without a lot of graphic content, it portrayed the violence inherent in humans, and how we will, if deprived of outside control systems, develop our own cruel hierarchies. That the children conceived and enacted all the violence without interference makes it all the more horrifying. I can’t contrast it with the Hunger Games books, but I have always considered Lord of the Flies one of them most chilling books I’ve ever read.

  • Casey March 8, 2011, 6:53 pm

    Oh yeah, LOTF is and always will be a disturbing story because on the surface we think it’s just kids who lose their way but it’s a reflection of humanity and how we are not that far removed from Hobbes’ idea of life in the natural world.

    I think it doesn’t appeal to younger kids because they aren’t capable of understanding all the subtleties and the metaphor. That’s why intense stuff like Battle Royale resonates more, they can easily grasp the severity because it’s so in your face.

    But no doubt when these kids grow up and have to fend for themselves in the world out there, they’ll better be able to identify with LOTF. I have enjoyed Kafka since I was in middle school but I didn’t feel I really “got” him until I was 25-26.

    • Michelle March 9, 2011, 3:01 pm

      I think Casey’s on the right track. I think the writing style suits the young adult audience better in The Hunger Games. They can relate to the audience more. I think they understand what’s going on in The Hunger Games because the respond to the writing style better than Lord of the Flies.

      I haven’t read Battle Royale yet, and I haven’t read Lord of the Flies recently enough to remember the specifics. From my lousy memory, The Hunger Games had a greater range of emotions. I think it also helps that it’s written in the first person. Finally, I think that simply modern kids are going to like modern books, because they are written for them. It’s more of a tailored experience.

  • Iain D March 8, 2011, 7:08 pm

    Damn you Josh, I’ve had that one crossed off my list for years! Now I need to put it back on. Just when I was getting caught up. It’s like you librarians want us to keep reading or something…


  • Michelle March 8, 2011, 7:56 pm

    I’ve never particularly liked Lord of the Flies, but the last time I read it was ages ago. (Like around 15 years old, I’m 22 now.) So I’m not sure if I’d have a different viewpoint now, or I might be forgetting large swaths of the book.

    Anyways, I thought it was pessimistic and depressing. I’d say the big difference between it & the Hunger Games trilogies was that in THG, the contestants were *forced* to fight to the death, whereas in LOTF, the kids just turned into little murdering savages.

    Of course, I thought the Hunger Games trilogy was depressing as hell too. What can I say? I’m not one for depressing books!

  • Boris March 8, 2011, 10:08 pm

    I’ll have to read it again.

  • Amanda March 9, 2011, 7:45 am

    I was obsessed with LOTF when I was a kid! I haven’t read many young adult books, or whatever they’re called, and I also haven’t tried reading LOTF as an adult. I thought it was the greatest adventure book ever, though. It’s weird to me that kids would find it boring! Maybe I AM just old. Hm.

  • Janine March 9, 2011, 2:41 pm

    I haven’t read that book in over 20 years but I still do remember it so I’m thinking I must have found it disturbing! I haven’t read the other books you’re talking about.

  • page March 12, 2011, 7:58 pm

    LOTF creeped me right the hell out when I first read it, and when I picked it up again 15 years later. Other people’s kids are still fodder for my nightmares.

    Not my kids of course, they’re too civilized for that sort of thing.

  • Pim March 15, 2011, 3:42 am

    Okay, I hope I’m not banned from posting after this. I wasn’t disturbed when I read Lord of the Flies. People can do some pretty cruel things to other people. Study your history.

    The fact that it’s children in this book instead of Nazi’s, psychopaths, drug dealers doing the horrible deeds is supposed to shock me?

    People can do beautiful things and horrible things. That’s what makes us such complicated creatures. We can build churches and concentrationcamps. We can paint, sculpt and torture and maim. And these things are not necessarily done with a rational reason. We have the capacity for cruelty and the capacity for creating beauty all rolled in one package. Which side of the coin turns up is completely random.

    Oh by the way I am a perfectly happy and healthy human with a working relationship and a job teaching children. I also am a student of human nature and have long ago given up on being shocked to easily.

    • Josh Hanagarne March 15, 2011, 7:59 am

      I don’t get it. Why would that get you banned?

      I do study history.

  • Angel March 25, 2011, 8:48 pm

    I read LOTF in 9th grade and very much enjoyed it. I’ve also read the Hunger Games. I think that, in a way, LOTF is more disturbing because of the way you can almost place yourself on the island and, long after you put the book down, you wonder if you would be driven to do the same grusome things as the boys did in that situation. While Hunger Games is very similiar to LOTF, it has almost a science fiction approach to it and doesn’t get the same feel across as LOTF.

  • Rani October 2, 2011, 2:10 pm

    it is absolutely brilliant. it’s haunting me yes, it always does. when i read the book I didn’t know where to turn and what to think, it filled up my mind and thoughts constantly.
    in a way it’s sickening that it got me sucked in that great, but it shows (in my opinion) how amazing this book really is. it is disturbing but i can appreciate it. it is far out one of my favourites all-time. 🙂

  • adam March 6, 2012, 7:55 pm

    lord of the flies i do not find as distrubing as interesting. there is very interesting psycology involved in this book. it is so dynamic, and has so many different levels. you could say that they are boys on an island, you could say it represents frued psycology, or you could look at savagry, or religious the book is amazing

  • C. Campbell May 6, 2012, 5:58 pm

    I am thinking of doing a lesson plan contrasting the themes of The Hunger Games and Lord of the Flies, the google search led me to your page.

    Thank you for this post, I thought I might have been reaching trying to compare the two.

    It’s been a while since I had read LOTF, too!

    • Josh Hanagarne May 6, 2012, 8:50 pm

      Let me know how the lesson goes. If you want somewhere to write about it, I’d love to host you.