Critical Insights: Lord of the Flies
This volume explores many different dimensions of Golding's classic novel, including the novel's initial critical reception, the moral issues it raises, its film adaptations, and the ways in which commentary about the novel has evolved.
The volume also explores the ways the novel has been received on both sides of the Atlantic and additionally, examines its themes, characters, and structures from a diversity of critical perspectives. The book sums up previous work on Golding’s text while also charting new interpretive directions.
Each Critical Insights is divided into four sections:
An Introduction – The book and the author
The present volume begins with an essay by Stephan Schaffrath which connects representations of violence in Lord of Flies to the real-world experience of violence and the resulting trauma.
Next, Courtney Lane offers a succinct overview of William Golding’s life and career, from his early life at home and school to his various vocational forays, including his experiences in the British Navy during World War II, and, finally, to his rise to critical acclaim as an author and world-renowned novelist.
The essays aim to provide a background to the title and author that is an historical, cultural, and biographical foundation for the reader. The first essay in this section is a discussion of the historical context of Lord of the Flies. The second essay in the critical contexts section, advocates the necessity of critical pluralism, the notion that multiple critical interpretations are required when analyzing a complex work of literature and that no single theory is definitive.
Following that essay is perhaps the most theoretically innovative chapter in this volume, an interpretation of Lord using cognitive criticism, more specifically the concept of motor resonance or kinesis to explore how the reactions of a reader’s nervous system to the events occurring in Lord (and when reading in general) mimic reactions to similar real-life situations—while of course stopping short of taking action in response to that fictional stimulus. The critical contexts section concludes with an essay hat compares/contrasts Golding’s depiction of human nature in Lord of the Flies with that in Robert A. Heinlein’s science fiction novel Tunnel in the Sky (1955).
The first four essays in the critical readings section provide essential, succinct overviews of the most significant and substantial critical articles addressing Lord of the Flies. They begin with a thorough summary of the critical commentary on Lord, both academic and in the popular press, during the first fifteen years after the novel’s publication—the height of its popularity. The next chapter summarizes the following twenty years of criticism (1970-1989) during which Lord fell into relative obscurity, at least in the United States. This is followed by a summary of critical articles from the last decade of the 20th century to the first decade of the 21st. And the final essay in this quartet summarizes some of the most significant articles on Lord written in foreign languages, offering readers insight into how Lord has been introduced to new audiences and discussed critically around the world.
Continuing this section is an essay closely examining the novel's treatment of Piggy's fat body, followed by a comparison between Lord of the Flies and a similarly named titled published in the same year, The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien. In the next chapter, there is a close reading of the novel to determine whether Lord, as a dystopia, qualifies as a classical dystopia or a critical dystopia, or at the very least feature a eutopian enclave.
Next, the penultimate chapter of this volume offers readers the rare opportunity to engage directly with foreign language criticism on Lord with a translation and update of his 1984 article “Jeu et Sacré dans Lord of the Flies de William Golding.” The final chapter in the critical readings section explores the ways in which Lord functions as political and religious drama and satirizes Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan (1651).
Each essay is 2,500-5,000 words in length and all essays conclude with a list of "Works Cited," along with endnotes.
- Chronology of William Golding's Life and Works
- Works by William Golding
- About the Editor