Cruelty Lies Literature

Sara Stevenson: Our “Lord of the Flies” Moment

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Sara Stevenson was a middle school teacher and librarian in Austin, Texas, for many years. She wrote this post in response to the current crisis, which reminded her of Lord of the Flies.

She begins like this:

Several editorialists have compared recent events to the 1954 classic and bane of high school students for decades, The Lord of the Flies by William Golding. As a former high school English teacher, I taught the novel about a group of British school boys, early teens and younger, whose plane wreck lands them on a deserted island with no adult supervision.

Watching the images of the Trump mob assaulting the Capitol, the parallels with the novel stood out sharply, especially images of Jake Angeli, the face-painted “warrior” in a Viking hat, also known as QAnon Shaman.  

In The Lord of the Flies, when the boys first realize there are no adults, they are jubilant. Soon the boys choose their first leader, Ralph. Piggy, the bespectacled intellectual, advises the naturally popular Ralph as the boys create their own parliamentary rules of order and assign roles for keeping a signal fire burning and hunting pigs for meat.

Jack, the charismatic bully, leads the group of hunters who gradually defect from Ralph’s rule. Jack’s pig hunts morph into hunts for an imagined Beast, a shared hallucination the boys all fear. Simon, the “Christ figure,” warns Ralph and the others that there is no beast, that “the Beast is us.” When Simon appears alone on the beach in a mist, the boys in a frenzy, mistake him for the Beast, shout “Kill the Beast, spill his blood,” and murder him. 

Later Roger, the sadist, becomes Jack’s henchman and levers a giant stone to crush Piggy, the voice of reason, who is trying to make peace as all but some “littluns” have defected from Ralph’s leadership.

When a Royal Navy crew finally discovers the boys, Ralph is being chased to death by Roger and the other boys with their sharpened spears. The naval officers shake their heads at the idea that British boys had turned into such savages.

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