Lord of the Flies

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Lord of the Flies
"Maybe there is a beast. Maybe it's only us." (Original UK book cover)
Written by: William Golding
Central Theme:
Genre(s): Allegory, Robinsonade Deconstruction
First published: September 17, 1954
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"We are going to have fun on this island."

Lord of the Flies is a 1954 novel written by William Golding. It is a Deconstruction of the Kids Wilderness Epic and Robinsonade. 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 had three film adaptations, the most notable ones being from 1963 and 1990. Referenced and parodied in various media. The book 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.

The best-known example (and possibly the Trope Maker) of a Teenage Wasteland, even when all the kids are under the age of fifteen.

Tropes used in Lord of the Flies include:
  • After the End: The boys were on a plane fleeing the soon-to-be-nuked UK. Partially averted in that, 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 Cozy 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.
    • 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 Did Not Do the Research.
  • 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."

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Break the Cutie: All the kids to some extent. In the case of Piggy and Simon, Kill the Cutie.
  • 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.
  • Coming of Age Story: In a way. Ralph quickly discovers that leading has a whole bunch of responsibilities.
  • Crapsack World: Very much so.
  • Dare to Be Badass: Piggy, especially considering he's the most Non-Action Guy of the survivors...
  • 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.

Eventually, the kids were rescued, by... oh, let's say... Moe.

"The officer, having interrupted a manhunt, prepares to take the children off the island in a cruiser which will presently be hunting its enemy in the same implacable way. And who will save the adult and his cruiser?"

  • Irony: Ralph wants to keep the fire lit to attract rescue. Jack wants the fire snuffed out so their fun won't end. Jack manages to draw the attention of the Royal Navy by setting fire to the entire island in an attempt to kill Ralph. It is implied that they wouldn't have noticed the island at all otherwise.
  • It Gets Easier: Roger escalates from hitting "littluns" with rocks to leading the boys in killing Simon in mass hysteria to outright murdering Piggy.
  • It Got Worse: Mainly in the last 5 chapters.
  • Kids Are Cruel / Teens Are Monsters: Big time, especially with Roger. The islanders are particularly mean to Piggy.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The officer who rescues them just as Ralph is about to be killed remarks, "Just like Coral Island, eh?", with said book being one of the cheerier Rousseau Was Right novels.
  • Madness Mantra: Percival Wemys Madison, The Vicarage, Harcourt Street, Anthony, Hants, telephone, telephone, tele–
    • "Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!"
  • Meaningful Name: Three of the main characters are named directly after Coral Island characters. The fourth? Simon from Peterkin.
  • The Messiah: Simon, who understands a lot more than the other boys. The description of his death makes it sound like an atonement sacrifice, which only makes it worse when it doesn't actually help save anyone.
  • Murder by Mistake: Simon's death at the hands of the other boys.
  • Naming Conventions: At that time and place, the pupils should be on a Last-Name Basis and Jack insists on "Merridew", but everyone quickly accepts First-Name Basis, except for Piggy, whose nickname started out as an insult. Due to this, none of the important characters has his full name revealed except for Jack.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Jack has the entire island on fire to kill Ralph - the massive amounts of smoke actually summon a Naval ship, which Ralph and Piggy had been awaiting the whole book long.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: In order to soften the blow of losing his leadership to him, Ralph declares Jack leader of the hunters. This earnest gesture can largely be seen as the beginning of the end, as it inadvertently sows the seeds of a rival faction with Jack at its head.
  • Oh Crap: Ralph, upon seeing Sam and Eric fighting each other, realizes how screwed his order is.

And whatever you do, we mustn't let the fire go out. Because... because...oh God, I can't remember.