A frightening thought experiment

Lord Of The FliesLord Of The Flies by William Golding
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An unknown number of British boys, none older than 12 and others half that age, are marooned on an otherwise uninhabited Pacific island, with no adults, and after some childish attempts to reproduce civilized order, turn into murderous savages. This is a powerful thought experiment, terrifying because it is so believable — as Stephen King also says, in his graceful and convincing prologue to this edition. If we could turn loose a lot of boys this young, with enough food and water to survive but no adult supervision, something like this would be bound to happen in only a few weeks time, or less. All of us who have been 12-year-old boys can remember those inchoate feelings, those moments of exultation at being free of supervision, and other moments of unbridled rage when we felt capable of any violence, and our feeling that we had to be part of some group, either as leaders or followers.

No need to say more — reviews and detailed discussions of every aspect of this book, and of the films made from it, are readily available on the 'Net. What is especially frightening is knowing that not only children can turn so cruel, but that we adults are susceptible to similar mass behavior with even more violent consequences (in "The Lord of the Flies" only two children are killed, stupidly and frantically by a crazed mob, and another "littlun" with a birthmark is lost; imagine if these painted young savages had access to landmines, rockets and suicide belts). In fact (a point made by many readers), Ralph, Piggy, Jack Meridew and the other boys on the island are replicating in childish form the behaviors of the real adults on Pitcairn Island. I don't think anyone who has read this book will be able to forget it, because it reminds us of too many terrors in our real pasts.

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