Sunday, February 13, 2005

50 in 05: Lord of the Flies

#7: Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. This one has been sitting on my bookshelf for a long time, unread. I finally picked it up after stumbling upon the 80's-ish film adaptation on TV a few days ago. I remember watching the movie when I was a kid, when my folks rented it, and Piggy's fate still gives me chills. The aftertaste of that movie, and of the novel, is similar to that of Watchmen--after Watchmen, I didn't want any superheroes in my life for awhile. After Lord of the Flies, I don't think I want boys adventures stories in my life for a few weeks.

The language of the book was hard to get into at first, but I was quickly taken in by the subtly shifting POV Golding uses. Even when focusing on a specific character, we get fleeting glimpses of the larger world. Early in the story, as Roger tosses rocks at another boy, tosses to miss, "Roger's arm was conditioned by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins." A war has gone on out there in the grownup world, a world that left these boy stranded on an island, but we only hear about it in pieces like this. The boys are aware of the Reds, of atomic bombs, of battles being fought, but mostly they're caught up in the reality of their environment.

I don't this book would have felt so repressive if I hadn't read it over the course of the last few days . . . the dangers faced by Ralph and Piggy and Simon are real and easily avoidable, one would think, but when reading this book, when you're in the thick of it with this new tribe, it's impossible to see quite how. The inevitability of their descent from civilization is morbid and scary and hard to look away from. The end is more chilling in the film than in the movie, I think--more abrupt. I like the chase better in the film, but--and I don't think I'm ruining anything here, as everyone but me seems to have read this book in high school--the appearance of the soldier is more of a gut-punch in the movie. I do enjoy the subtle clues to something else approaching the island, in the novel that is. Overall, I'm glad both of them are around to be compared and to tell a full story.

But the thing is, what I'm most curious about is what happens when Ralph and Jack go back to civilization. What happens when Ralph, ten years later, goes to the grocery store? Maybe I'll go write that story.

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