Literature: Lord of the Flies
"We are going to have fun on this island."Lord of the Flies
— Repeated line, Lord of the Flies
is a 1954 novel written by William Golding. It is a Deconstruction
of the Kids Wilderness Epic
. A plane full of British schoolboys crashes on
a Deserted Island
, and the darkness of humanity spills forth as they turn against each other.
It's had three cinematic adaptations
(a British one in 1963, an American one in 1990, and a little-known Filipino adaptation called Alkitrang dugo
in 1975 that had boys and
girls) and is referenced and parodied in various media. It is very popular for English Literature assignments
in High School
on both sides of the Pond and Down Under
, thanks to its themes about morality and authority, and its symbolism, which is extremely easy to spot, but open to many different interpretations.
The best-known example (and possibly the Trope Maker
) of a Teenage Wasteland
, even when all the kids are under the age of fifteen.
Now with a character sheet
This work provides examples of:
- Acting Your Intellectual Age: Piggy all the way.
- Adaptational Attractiveness: Jack is stated to be ugly in the novel, however he is good looking in both the 1963 and 1990 version.
- After the End: The boys were on a plane fleeing the soon-to-be-nuked UK. Though the home country is apparently in dire straits, the British Navy is still out doing its job as best as possible. May have verged into Cosy Catastrophe if it wasn't for the fact that mention of the war was a very minor framing device with little direct bearing on the story.
- Ambition Is Evil: Jack. His desire to be leader is evident from the outset.
- Animal Motifs: A sow's head on a pike, slowly decaying, serves as the metaphor for the decay of children's morals, thus making them closer to hoglike greed.
- The title itself is a reference to Beelzebub.
- Anyone Can Die: And it's far from pretty.
- Artistic License – Physics: The divergent lens of Piggy's glasses (required for his short-sightedness) would be useless for lighting a fire. You would need a convergent lens, found in reading glasses. The kids would have had to learn one of the other methods for starting fires that they discussed, but that would break the plot.
- It's easy to assume Piggy is farsighted until, at the beginning of chapter eleven, it says: "Piggy sat expressionless behind the luminous wall of his myopia." The concave lenses needed to fix myopia are incapable of focusing light to a point, thus incapable of starting a fire. Whether Golding was unaware of that distinction or had myopia and hyperopia confused, the net result is a clear-cut case of poor research.
- Beauty Equals Goodness: In the book, The Hero Ralph is described as fair-haired, athletic, charismatic and handsome; Rival Turned Evil Jack is redhaired, with freckles and ugly. The movie averts this. Jack is a perfectly pleasant looking boy.
- Big Bad: Jack Merridew.
- Big "NO!": Ralph's reaction to Piggy before he's about to be killed by a rock, dropped by Roger, in the 90's remake.
- Bittersweet Ending: The timely arrival of the British Navy is considered the only thing standing in between this ending and a Downer Ending. The ending is still far too dark when Ralph realized the evil inside him and he wept.
"Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy."
- Given that they're rescued by a warship and the book alludes to a recent nuclear war, it's arguable how much of a rescue they've even been given.
- Black and Grey Morality: Essentially. A number of those who side with Ralph are closer to the white side, but they're certainly not saints.
- The only character who is really above this is Simon. His foil, Roger, is established as someone who's pretty far on the black side.
- Blind Without 'Em: Piggy.
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Ralph is described as being 'fair-haired', Piggy and Simon are dark-haired, and Jack is a redhead.
- Blonde Guys Are Evil: Averted in the book where Ralph is described as fair haired. Played straight in both movies where Ralph has dark hair while Jack is the one who is fair haired.
- Break the Cutie: All the kids to some extent. In the case of Piggy and Simon, Kill the Cutie.
- Breaking Speech: Given by the Lord of the Flies to Simon about human nature and law of the jungle and stuff.
- Butt Monkey: Piggy, oh so much. He is the one person who can unite everyone else...because they all enjoy laughing at him and feel connected by excluding Piggy. Even Ralph.
- Children Are Innocent: So freaking averted.
- Chromosome Casting: A male example - a bit less than half of the characters are pupils at the same single-sex boarding school.
- Crapsack World: Very much so.
- Dare to Be Badass: Piggy, especially considering he's the most Non-Action Guy of the survivors...
- Deconstructive Parody: It was actually written as a parody, though the specific form of Kids Wilderness Robinsonade that it was attacking is something of a Forgotten Trope. It is also considered a rather brutal skewering of the pip-pip-cheerio book Coral Island.
- Deserted Island
- Deus ex Machina: Ralph is rescued by the Royal Navy at the last minute, effectively out of the blue. This was intentional, as the Naval Officer is important in rounding off the themes of the story, and the sudden abruptness with which he appears (with absolutely no foreshadowing) is crucial to highlighting the rapidity with which the appearance of an authority can change everything.
- Dewey Defeats Truman: Lord of the Flies is actually set in the near future (of 1956), after a nuclear war between the USSR and Britain. This is mentioned by some of the boys in the book (along with the existence of nuclear bombs and their use), although usually in passing.
- Disaster Democracy
- The Dividual: Sam and Eric, who are commonly referred to with one name (Samneric) and are recognized as one person in the assembly.
- Double Entendre: The scene where the screaming sow is killed with sharpened sticks is written as a gang-rape...
- The scene where the kids reenact this, using Robert as a replacement pig, is even worse, what with lines like "Ralph too was fighting to get near, to get a handful of that brown, vulnerable flesh."
- The Dragon: Roger becomes this to Jack as his tribe's executioner.
- Dying for Symbolism: The makeshift society gradually goes into chaos, and when Simon dies, it represents the death of the innocence of the kids on the island.
- Piggy's death, after making a moral stand for order and unity, marks the complete collapse of civilization. Sam and Eric are captured, and Ralph is left helpless and alone.
- Enemy Within: "Maybe there is no monster on the island. Maybe... it's just us..." The Lord of the Flies outright states this to Simon in a vision.
Lord of the Flies: 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?
- Enfant Terrible: Jack and Roger.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Even though he hated Piggy, even Jack is terrified when Roger murders him.
- Although he recovers quickly and threatens Ralph with the same fate, cementing his status as the main antagonist.
- Evil Redhead: Jack.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: As the months pass, all the boys' hair becomes long and shaggy (except for the wise Piggy's), and, especially for our hero, Ralph, starts obscuring their vision.
- Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon: Jack, in the two films, is this.
- Foreshadowing: In hindsight, the arrival of the Royal Navy at the book's climax is predicted early in the book, though none present could have guessed the circumstances under which that would happen.
- Fiery Redhead: Jack.
And whatever you do, we mustn't let the fire go out.
Because... because...oh God, I can't remember.