There are 17 critical essays on Lord of the Flies.
Critical Essays on Lord of the Flies
Critical Essay by John Peter
1,880 words, approx. 6 pages
Fables are those narratives which leave the impression that their purpose was anterior, some initial thesis or contention which they are apparently concerned to embody and express in concrete terms. Fables always give the impression that they were preceded by the conclusion which it is their function to draw…. (p. 577) [At the end of Lord of the Flies the] abrupt return to childhood, to insignificance, underscores the argument of the narrative: that Evil is inherent in the human mind itself, whatever...
Critical Essay by James R. Baker
1,477 words, approx. 5 pages
Lord of the Flies is on the decline. (p. 447) It is natural to tire of familiar things and to pursue instead the excitements which come with novelty and the sense of discovery. But I wish to argue in behalf of Lord of the Flies, not because I have discovered something startling and new to abash the jaded scholars …, but because the decline of Golding's book is a symptom of a dangerous tendency in our academic and intellectual life…. [All] of humanity is involved in explosive crisis and ...
Critical Essay by Peter Green
1,477 words, approx. 5 pages
Golding is, primarily, a religious novelist: his central theme is not the relationship of man to man but the relationship of man, the individual, to the universe; and through the universe, to God. The symbolism of his novels is, in essence, theological. Both Lord of the Flies and The Inheritors are concerned with the primal loss of innocence. Pincher Martin, as the last chapter proves, explicitly concerns the sufferings of a dead man who has created his own Purgatory. It is a moral axiom of Golding's...
Critical Essay by Stanley Cook
1,294 words, approx. 4 pages
Golding [would be] a major figure among contemporary English novelists had he written nothing but Lord of the Flies and would still [be] a major figure had he written nothing but his other novels. Lord of the Flies is not the first time that parody has turned to a novel in its own right…. Stung by what he considers an unreal view of life, the novelist is too magnanimous to stop at exposing the faults of another but goes on, to show incidentally that he can do better, but mainly to tell the truth. Thi...
Critical Essay by David Spitz
1,157 words, approx. 4 pages
Simon, it is clear, is the Christ-figure, the voice of revelation [in Lord of the Flies]…. He alone does not fear the false god, the messenger from heaven, the slain airman—a metaphor for history—who is dead but won't lie down…. Simon sees him and understands; he knows that "the beast was harmless and horrible; and the news must reach the others as soon as possible." Like Moses, then, he comes down from the mountain bearing the truth—which in Simon...
Critical Essay by R. C. Townsend
988 words, approx. 3 pages
Presumably one starts with the hope—if not the belief—that Golding's thesis [in Lord of the Flies] is wrong, that finally man is more than a beast…. [But] it becomes clear how unsure Golding is of that thesis and of his ability to make his fable suggest it. He thinks he would be unable (or he knows we would be unwilling) to move from the terms of one to those of the other and so he continually makes the jump for us. Thus Ralph and Jack become, he tells us, "two continents ...
Critical Essay by V. S. Pritchett
806 words, approx. 3 pages
[William Golding's] three books, Lord of the Flies (1954), The Inheritors (1955) and Pincher Martin (1956) are romance in the austere sense of the term. They take the leap from the probable to the possible. Lord of the Flies has a strong pedigree: island literature from Crusoe to Coral Island, Orphan Island and High Wind in Jamaica. All romance breaks with the realistic novelist's certainties and exposes the characters to transcendent and testing dangers. But Golding does more than break; he b...
Critical Essay by Harry H. Taylor
640 words, approx. 2 pages
[In Lord of the Flies] Simon has been given the conventional characteristics of the mystic whose non-rational approach to the ways of knowing are presumably meant to reassert the mystery and to re-affirm the meaning of the universe beyond its apparent basis in natural law but, in point of fact, Simon first fails to do so and then brings back the truth of the opposite. We have been led to believe in the possibility of the mystery which we later learn the author himself is not willing to accept but, on the ot...
Critical Essay by C. B. Cox
593 words, approx. 2 pages
Lord of the Flies is probably the most important novel to be published in this country in the 1950s. A story so explicitly symbolic as this might easily become fanciful and contrived, but Golding has mastered the art of writing a twentieth century allegory. (p. 112) The idea of placing boys alone on an island, and letting them work out archetypal patterns of human society, is a brilliant technical device, with a simple coherence which is easily understood by a modern audience. Its success is due in part to ...
Critical Essay by J. D. O'hara
547 words, approx. 2 pages
The ordinary work of fiction can be defensibly judged only by its own laws; if a novel's world is consistent with itself, its divergence from a reader's own understanding of reality is irrelevant. But fables are different. They claim to describe our objective world, not their own. Such works can and must be judged by the accuracy with which they reflect our world and the perceptivity with which they interpret it. So judged, Lord of the Flies is open to several objections. Perhaps the basic obj...
Critical Essay by Frank Kermode
495 words, approx. 2 pages
The device [of shipwrecked boys surviving without adults] is interesting in itself; but rereading Lord of the Flies after the publication of two more major novels by its author should be able to keep it in perspective. It is interesting, certainly, that so evident a master should want to use it; Mr. Golding, who knows boys well enough to make their collapse into savagery perfectly plausible, has, strangely, a profound and tragic interest in what interests them. Among the half-dozen really potent boyhood myt...
Critical Essay by Louis J. Halle
485 words, approx. 2 pages
One is impressed by the possibilities of [Golding's theme in "Lord of the Flies"] for an expression of the irony and tragedy of man's fate. Against his majority of little savages he places a remnant that convincingly represents the saving element of human heroism, thereby posing the eternal moral conflict. But he cannot quite find his meaning in this material. The heroes come to a bad end, having contributed nothing to such salvation as the society achieves. There is a great deal...
Critical Essay by A. C. Capey
441 words, approx. 2 pages
The truth is that the author despises the boys [in Lord of the Flies]…. [His] knowledge and understanding are tarnished by cynicism, the product of a limited vision of human nature, a partial view of history and a schoolmasterish tendency to denigrate children. Cynical contempt appears time and again in the novel, characteristically in the form of gratuitous judgment by an adult observer. (p. 103) Mr. Golding, in leaning too heavily on [an idea], causes it to split apart at the seams. The death of Pi...
Critical Essay by James R. Baker
323 words, approx. 1 pages
[Golding] satirizes the Christian as well as the rationalist point of view. In Lord of the Flies, for example, the much discussed last chapter offers none of the traditional comforts. A fable, by virtue of its far-reaching suggestions, touches upon a dimension that most fiction does not—the dimension of prophecy. With the appearance of the naval officer it is no longer possible to accept the evolution of the island society as an isolated failure. The events we have witnessed constitute a picture of r...
Critical Essay by James Stern
309 words, approx. 1 pages
"Lord of the Flies" is an allegory on human society today, the novel's primary implication being that what we have come to call civilization is, at best, no more than skin-deep. With undertones of [George Orwell's] "1984" and [Richard Hughes's] "High Wind in Jamaica," this brilliant work is a frightening parody on man's return (in a few weeks) to that state of darkness from which it took him thousands of years to emerge. Fully to succeed,...
Critical Essay by Gladys Veidemanis
284 words, approx. 1 pages
How do you account for the enormous appeal of [Lord of the Flies], especially to adolescents and college-age students?… It enables meaningful questioning about the nature of man, the aims of society, the structure of the social order…. Golding … appeals to students as a spokesman of their generation and of the situation in which they find themselves…. The book helps to alleviate—vicariously—feelings of guilt and fear which students have individually felt unique to t...
Critical Essay by Frank J. Warnke
196 words, approx. 1 pages
The Golding fashion among undergraduates has not, as yet at least, reached anything resembling the dimensions of the Salinger fashion which was operative on American campuses even five years ago, but those who like [Lord of the Flies] like it with a passionate intensity which tends to fly at the throat of adverse criticism of any sort. The spell exerted by Lord of the Flies (and, for those who have read it, by The Inheritors) seems to reside in its combination of fast-paced and violent action, all-embracing...
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