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Lord of the Flies ()


Modern Library Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century (41)

In the notes to the copy of the book that I read, Golding said that "The theme of the book is an attempt to trace the defects of Society back to the defects of human nature.  The moral is that the shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system however apparently logical or respectable."

This seems to me to be profoundly wrong.  Ethics and morality are a function of the political system that society's adopt, not vice versa. Golding would have done well to read Hobbes' Leviathan.  Hobbes makes the much more convincing case that for man in the state of Nature, life was "Nasty, brutish and short".  So man traded off a certain amount of autonomy to a central authority in exchange for protection from other men. Morality then flows from the political structures that men adopt.

Take an example on a smaller scale: the morality of informing.   In criminal enterprises the informer (rat, squealer, snitch) is immoral because the enterprise depends on secrecy--i.e., the Mafia , Revolutionary/Terrorist groups, crooked cops,  the Clinton White House--and anyone who parts the veil of secrecy is demonized, because informing endangers the entire structure.  In the normal run of life we are fairly conflicted about informing, we don't honor the informer (Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, Whittaker Chambers, Frank Serpico, Linda Tripp) but we do seek to protect them from retalliation by their bosses via whistleblower laws.  While  in totalitarian societies informing against those who oppose the state (even if it's your parents) is a heroic act.  Golding would have us believe that these differences are the result of the innate ethical natures of the members of the societies.  In fact, it is the agreed upon structure of the societies that determines what behavior is accepted as ethical.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (C)

  

Websites:

Book-related and General Links:
    -Home Page : William Golding Limited
    -William Golding (1911-1993) - in full Sir Willam Gerald Golding (kirjasto)
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA : "william golding"
    -William Golding (1911-1993) (Nobel e-Museum, The Nobel Foundation)
    -SIR WILLIAM GOLDING : 1983 Nobel Laureate in Literature (Nobel Prize Internet Archive)
    -ARCHIVES : "william golding" (NY Review of Books)
    -ARCHIVES : William Golding (books unlimited)
    -Literary Research Guide: William Golding (1911-1993)
    -EducETH - Golding, William (1911 - 1993)
    -William Golding (1911-1993) (Bohemian Ink)
    -A Tribute to Willliam Golding (Velissarios Valsamas)
    -ARTICLE : BRITON WINS THE NOBEL LITERATURE PRIZE (JAMES M. MARKHAM, New York Times, October 7, 1983)
    -ARTICLE : SPAT OVER NOBEL PRIZE EMBARASSES ACADEMY  (JAMES M. MARKHAM,  New York Times, October 8, 1983)
    -PROFILE : GOLDING PINS HOPE ON WORDS  (R. W. APPLE Jr., December 8, 1983, NY Times)
    -ESSAY : SHOULD HOLDEN CAULFIELD READ THESE BOOKS?  (Donald Barr, May 4, 1986, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY : ABOUT BOOKS AND AUTHORS : Birth of the Flies (Edwin McDowell, NY Times)
    -ONLINE STUDY GUIDE : The Lord of the Flies (Brian Phillips, Spark Notes)
    -Lord of the Flies  - turning paradise into hell -
    -Discovery Channel School: Lord of the Flies
    -ClassicNotes: William Golding
    -REVIEW : Apr 30, 1964 Frank Kermode: The Case for William Golding, NY Review of Books
               The Spire by William Golding
    -REVIEW : of CLOSE QUARTERS By William Golding (Robert M. Adams, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of CLOSE QUARTERS By William Golding (Walter Goodman, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of THE PAPER MEN By William Golding (Robert M Adams, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE PAPER MEN. By William Golding (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of FIRE DOWN BELOW By William Golding (Deirdre Bair, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of  A MOVING TARGET By William Golding (Jan Morris, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE DOUBLE TONGUE By William Golding (DAVID WILLIS McCULLOUGH, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : Dec 7, 1967 Denis Donoghue: The Ordinary Universe, NY Review of Books
               The Pyramid by William Golding
               William Golding: A Critical Study by Mark Kinkead-Weekes and Ian Gregor
               The Art of William Golding by Bernard S. Oldsey and Stanley Weintraub
               Imaginary Friends by Alison Lurie
    -REVIEW : Feb 24, 1972 V.S. Pritchett: Genesis, NY Review of Books
               Glory by Vladimir Nabokov, translated by Dimitri Nabokov, and in
               collaboration with the author
               The Scorpion God by William Golding
    -BOOK LIST : MODERN NOVELS; THE 99 BEST : The Spire (1964)  (Anthony Burgess, February 5, 1984, NY Times Book Review)

FILMS :
    -FILMOGRAPHY : "william golding" (Imdb)

Comments:

I LOVE THIS BOOK!! great for toilet paper

- anonamus

- Sep-10-2006, 23:28

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I sugest you read the book again before writing a review.

- Niall mcMahon

- Dec-30-2005, 18:08

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Yes, ethics is a political system. Left to himself every man would act only for himself, thus he enters into a political system.

- oj

- Jul-15-2003, 17:19

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Given Golding's status in literature, it is easier to believe that he disagrees with Hobbes; not that he hasn't read him. Also, Golding is not wrong, he just has a different oppinion. Are you also saying that people without politcal systems are unethical? To me that seems "profoundly wrong." Your "informer" theory doesn't make any logical connection to anything Golding talks about. You are using criminals to talk about ethics and morals. That just doesn't work.

- Daniel Springle

- Jul-15-2003, 15:54

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