Monday, November 19, 2012

thoughts from "Lord of the Flies" by William Golding

Front Cover

I recently "read" this book on audio CD while commuting back and forth to work. This is a very short, yet very powerful look into the total depravity of man.

The word "Beelzebub" that is often used as a name for Satan literally means, "Lord of the Flies." This novel confirms both the existence of evil within and without: that is a tendency to bend toward hell acting out from within and an active force from outside us desiring to penetrate and plant seeds deeper within us.

This novel explores how much of what we do is influenced by who is watching and in what circumstances we find ourselves. Golding's theory is that the removal of societal restraint results in the manifestation of who we really are; and who we are is not pretty. There is a danger lurking inside us that bubbles over if left unchecked.  Not unlike a pot of spaghetti set on "high."  Darkness exists inside and outside us. It is emphasized by the absence of light. Take away the light and the darkness is revealed to be even more dark. What hinted at in shadows while the light remained is highlighted as darkness.

Here are a few notable scenes and lines from the book that jumped out at me and a few comments regarding them:

"Roger gathered a handful of stones and began to throw them. Yet there was a space round Henry, perhaps six yards in diameter, into which he dare not throw. Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life. Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law."

From this scene Golding is drawing out that Roger desired to throw rocks closer to Henry. Perhaps he even desired to hit Henry. But he felt as though he shouldn't. He still was operating under the weight of restraint imposed upon him.  There was a grace being evidenced in Roger's reluctance.  If this grace were to be removed, he would be "free" to do as he pleased;and hitting Henry with a rock would be fun. The "ought to" had to be obliterated before the sin could be enjoyed entirely.

"There isn’t anyone to help you. Only me. And I’m the Beast. . . . Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! . . . 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 the way they are?”

Simon wanted to destroy the thing that had brought terror to him and his friends. He discovered that the most dangerous evil on the island was that which was lurking inside him and his friends. Their very nature and natural outworkings would produce greater terror than the evils they assigned to something "out there." Simon realized all of this while being in contact with an actual evil out there. The cleverness of the real Beast was to point the children inward into themselves. The Lord of the Flies did not want to terrorize the children from the darkness of the forrest, but rather desired to make his home in the darkness already present inside the hearts of these children.

Upon hearing this evil incantation from the Lord of the Flies, Simon runs back to the camp to tell everyone that the Beast of the darkness is not what they thought it was.  He sense that this news must reach the others as soon as possible. When he attempts to share the message, however, he is killed by the other children as part of a ceremony designed to satiate the very beast Simon was coming to dispel. The boys were performing a ritual aimed at making peace with the Beast. In their ignorant arrogance, they killed the messenger who carried a message of reconciliation. Peace was possible, but the prophet was put down before he could proclaim it.

“Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of a true, wise friend called Piggy”

The boys are rescued by a naval officer at the end of the novel.  Ralph is physically exhausted after being hunted down by the tribe of children who have gone ferrell with no supervision.  Ralph knows that the naval officer is his salvation.  He is now free from the tryanny of evil chasing him down.  He was on the brink of obliteration.  Evil was going to overcome him and destroy him.  Not in turning him to their evil persuasion, but in their desire to stamp out his resistance to their desire to go unrestrained.  Ralph's friend Piggy was murdered by these boys.  Boys who once studied together and survived together.  Boys who lived together and turned on each other.  They went ferrell.  They reverted to the evil within and it didn't take long to do so. In the end, only Ralph and Piggy truly held allegiance to pursuing good for goodness' sake.  Piggy was killed for it.  Ralph was in the process of being hunted down.

The knowledge of good and evil now realized by Ralph has robbed him of a life he previously lived.  Ralph may have known a little about the darkness that lurks within before.  Now he had seen it firsthand. Now there was no such thing as theory.  There was evil and it was closer to home then he was comfortable.

This is a great little book that provokes one's mind to ponder the depths of man and the grace of God in placing restraints on us.  We are not utterly depraved.  We could be worse.  But we are totally depraved.  Our depravity touches all of us.  All of who we are.  Each one of us.

1 comment:

  1. sounds like a great, thought-provoking book. it does sound a bit creepy, though... :)