Lord of the Flies is a dystopian, survival novel written by William Golding in 1953. Living through the bloodiest war in human history, Golding had witnessed humanity’s great capacity for inflicting cruelty and brutality on one another. This greatly influenced his pessimistic view of human nature; he believed that the natural human propensity is violent unless restrained by societal influence. The book opens on an island, now inhabited by a group of unsupervised British schoolboys that survived a violent plane crash. Some of the main characters are Ralph, Piggy, Jack, and Simon. Ralph and Piggy find a conch shell and call for an assembly of all the survivors on the island. The assembly results in the appointment of Ralph as chief. Ralph believes that maintaining fire on the island is the most important task, as it will signal to the outside world that they need rescue.
Meanwhile, Jack is focused on hunting. During this conflict, the boys find a mysterious creature called “the beast,” which they believe is following them, and planning to harm them. Simon tells the group that “the beast” may be them; that the human is the most dangerous animal on the island. As the debate on the existence of “the beast” continues, Jack and Ralph split into two separate tribes. Simon finds the head of a pig, left behind as a sacrifice to “the beast.” This head is the Lord of the Flies and gives Simon a vision. Simon is soon killed by Jack’s tribe, and as the conflict escalates, so is Piggy. Ralph is now targeted by Jack’s tribe and tries to fight them off as best he can. Just before Ralph is killed, a naval officer on a nearby ship reaches the island, alerted by their smoke signals, and rescues them.
This book demonstrates a zeitgeist held by many authors and philosophers during this time period. Golding’s use of British schoolboys as his characters shows that anyone, regardless of age or perceived innocence and civility, can surrender to the brutal proclivity living within all human beings. The boys are a mirror image of the warring adults surrounding them, and the island becomes a microcosm of World War II itself.