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Halloween, the Boogeyman, and Why ‘Lord of the Flies’ Matters
He served in the British Navy during World War II. Before the war, William Golding was a humanist, assured that people are perfectible, that humans can bring into being some future utopia. In Golding’s words, “All you had to do was to remove certain inequities and provide practical sociological solutions, and man would have a perfect paradise on earth.” After the war, Golding wrote a novel, the theme of which was about what he called “the defects of human nature.”
William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies tells the story of military schoolboys left to themselves on a desert island after a nuclear holocaust. Apart from any adult supervision, the boys devolve into a state of savagery, falling from modern to primitive. Split into two groups the boys vie for power. One group, fighting an island beast, erects a pig’s head on a pole which is soon surrounded by flies. The title of the novel, Lord of the Flies, reveals the true nature of the beast – the monster is not the pig but the boys themselves.
Monster costumes around Halloween are related to Lord of the Flies. The word “insect” comes from the original word for “bug,” later, boogeyman. Movie titles with the words “ghost,” “specter,” “goblin,” or “scarecrow” come from a fear of some beast, some Lord of the Flies. But as Golding and his novel teach us, the real monster, the real beast, is us. We may be haunted by supernatural entities – which do indeed, exist – but our first problem is the problem of our nature. Just like the boys on the island, left to ourselves, we will always be the monster. So, dressing up for Halloween as our favorite monster might be easiest if we just go as ourselves.
For Truth in Two, this is Dr. Mark Eckel, president of the Comenius Institute, who believes everyone should read Lord of the Flies.
.Published in General
This is basically the plot of Walking Dead. Two groups of survivors fight zombies, but mostly each other. One is a civilized and the other marauding. In real live, Leftists are always pushing toward anarchy as a tool to bring about communism.
I always thought “insect” came from a translation of Aristotle’s Greek “entomen” into Latin, with both meaning “cut into,” in other words, creatures with notched bodies. “Bug” on the other hand, may be related to words like “bugaboo” and “bugbear,” although there is no firm proof. It’s more in the speculative category.
But, yes, as Pogo said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
Lord of the Flies was once a mainstay of many high school English classes. I never read it in high school, and I think that is a good thing. So many works are (or were) thrown at kids, most of whom did not have the maturity to understand the subject matter. I finally read it when we had a preschooler. If there is ever a time when one can truly understand the concepts of savagery and civilization laid out in the novel, it is when surrounded by toddlers.
I love etymology and have my students do a new word each lesson. Vocabulary stretches so much the elastic wears out :) Here is the source for my comment: https://www.etymonline.com/word/bogeyman
I read it in high school, and we “got it.” As vague as it is in my mind, from so long ago, we recognized that the book illustrated immutable characteristics of human nature, and what can happen when they’re unchecked.
Then there’s this: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/may/09/the-real-lord-of-the-flies-what-happened-when-six-boys-were-shipwrecked-for-15-months
The difference? This real – life group brought something else with them, a civilizing force, their faith.
The lesson, then, for us, between the two stories, is what will become of society when we remove that civilizing force, just as Western culture is endeavoring to do.
Right, but that’s not what you wrote. “Bug” probably does come from “bugge,” and “bogge” is a variant of bugge. And “bogeyman” definitely comes from bogge/bugge. But that has nothing to do with “insect.” Don’t get your entomology confused with your etymology. Both can come back to bite you.
All of that said, it’s a minor, single sentence of confusion in three paragraphs of good.
LOVE the “entomology” / “etymology” connection! Thanks for that!
I’ll echo QuietPi above, regarding Golding’s ugly little invention. It’s powerful stuff to condition young minds, but it’s not true – it’s a lie told by the left. That’s not what happens. The truth of human nature is no more Lord of the Flies than Golding’s earlier fantasy: “to remove certain inequities and provide practical sociological solutions.”
I don’t think there is any reason to think these boys are from a military school. There was no such mention. At least half the boys, the little ones, are way too young for a military school. They had a choir, but that’s as far as their prior organization is ever described. I always imagined that they were children being relocated because of a war, like many of the children in southern England during WWII. I admit that even that much isn’t supported.
My daughter is reading it in school now. I’m glad her school is still teaching it (we just moved her to a small private school). It’s one of my favorite books.
At about the same time that Lord of the Flies was published, Robert Heinlein published Tunnel in the Sky, a tale about a group of high school students sent to a planet in another galaxy for a test in outlands survival. Only, something goes wrong, as they are stuck there, as far as they know, permanently. But unlike LOTF, the kids establish a civilized government and society.
It’s a very interesting book, on my list to review someday. Unlike LOTF, the group represents both sexes; it is also (atypically for the time) multiracial. After a period of choosing their leader (the book’s protagonist) by acclamation, they decide to hold a formal election for that purpose, and the protagonist’s opponent, a rather irritating student-government type named Grant, gives a speech on the nature of government. I excerpted it in my post Four Views of Government.
The Heinlein book mapped more accurately into what really happened when real kids were stuck on an island, as described by @quietpi above than did the Golding book.
The thing about Lord of the Flies is that when it happened in real life (an incident in which young schoolboys did in fact become stranded on an island), they did not devolve into savagery, but rather cooperated and survived.
Prior to WWII, it it was widely believed that heavy bombing of cities would result in widespread panic and complete social breakdown. Didn’t happen, either in Britain or in the even-more-intensively-bombed cities of Germany and Japan.
Meaning or without meaning to do so, Golding’s book tells us we’re at least as vulnerable to temptation, as likely to choose sin, as Adam and Eve were in Eden. I’d have to look up the meaning of “monster” to know if the book implies that we’re monsters, or the only real monsters.
Whether or not Golding consciously, intended to do this, the book implies that the spirit realm is real and the devil is (or devils are) real. You never forget the character, Simon, or his vision—-His hallucination ? I think, by the end of the book, you know it wasn’t just a hallucination.—-of the devil or a demon talking to him, in a school-master like voice, through the set-up pig’s head.
Regardless of what he consciously intended to write, Golding’s book makes it clear we need God, and that usually we need Him without wanting Him; that, on our own, we’re powerless against the influence of the Lord of the Flies. On our own, without God, the burning island is the best we’ll ultimately do. (By the way, doesn’t the pig’s head stuck on a pole indicate that, deliberately or not, we ARE going to worship something ?) The novel is one of the most beautiful and terrible books I’ve ever read.
I also don’t think the novel in any way contradicts the truth of the much happier history of the real lost boys. The stories—-both true—-are two sides of the same coin. (I think I read somewhere that the real lost school boys prayed together often, as they had been taught to do.)
Nah, usually you need a blackout, or an NBA championship to achieve that.
It has been many years since I read the book. It was sometime in the mid to late 1960s. Since that time I have spent many years working with adolescents. I think the book portrays kids very much as they are. The two main characters, Jack and Ralph, are leaders of very different stripes. Ralph is more the individualist, a sort of libertarian in the making. Jack was more like what we see among our leftist leaders, willing to use any edge he could to rally the forces. The rest, with the exception of Piggy (Simon), were the sheep seeking leadership, and willing to do whatever they were called upon to do so that they could belong to something.
What this demonstrates is not an inate evil in humans since Ralph is obviously not evil, but a willingness of the masses to follow someone who gives them a sense of belonging wherever that may lead.
The classic description of humans as sheep, sheep dogs, and wolves is a much more realistic assessment. The sheep dogs and wolves are pretty well defined. The sheep are essentially amoral. Without any defining structure they will drift toward whatever seems to give them a greater sense of security. I am currently about half way through Molly Hemingway’s latest book, Rigged. What I see is the media and the rest of the left doing all it can to create a sense of horror and distrust to undermine the then leadership of Donald Trump which, if Molly is to believed, and I think she should be, was pretty much on point to get the crisis resolved. The wolves in this case saw their own goals as more important than the resolution of the crisis. The masses, or at least 51% of them, went with that program, not out of any inate evil, but rather because they were terrified and were willing to follow those they thought were telling them the truth and would lead them to safety.
Evil exists. It is real. It is found among humans, but it is not a dominant characteristic. The dominant characteristic of mankind is banality.
I’m sorry, but that is the most cockamamie self-affirming interpretation ever.
Piggy and Simon are different characters. Piggy is supposedly an intellectual by some accounts, but really he’s just a weak boy. Simon is an epileptic who has visions.
The facile division of the world into sheep, wolves, and sheep dogs is pretty insulting. People are not so divided and categorized. People who claim to be “sheep dogs” are often busy bodies who think they have the right to tell others what to do for their own good, who are different from the “wolves” who are busy bodies who think they have the right to tell others what to do for their own good.
How is it self-affirming ?
Because you’re seeing a reference to a god where there was none. Lord of the Flies did not have any reference or allusion to a god anywhere. It was in fact saying that man’s inevitable nature, even when civilized and building warships, is bent towards brutality. Are you thinking those good British officers that saved them in the end were godless? No. They were good Church of England men.
I don’t think God, or a god, is ever directly mentioned in the Bible’s story of Esther either. The absence of any mention of God in the story of Esther ends up calling attention to Him.
In Lord of the Flies, Simon’s experience of hearing a talking voice coming from the head of the dead pig could be nothing more than his epilepsy. I think, if any demon had been mentioned, the reader would have less of a feeling of awareness of the possibility of one.
Yes I think it’s implied that the men who rescue the boys at the end of the novel are as godless as they are.
I’d have to take exception to this, mostly. I think that humans are very evil and only restrained by the sovereign action of the Holy Spirit. I tend to agree with those who think that God has allowed a world including famine, disease and death, headhunting, intertribal warfare, criminality, nazi, stasi, and genocide is to show what living outside His character produces.
And also, sheep aren’t amoral, they are characterized as peaceful and obedient, if not very bright, and need care. It’s the goats that are immoral, intelligent, independent, and disobedient.
I think you’re missing the entire point of the book.
I have to disagree with you on your assessment, and many others would agree with me. I appreciate your correction on the topic of Piggy/Simon. As I said, it has been many years since I read the book. Sheep dogs aren’t busy bodies”. They are often police officers and others who possess skills the sheep often do not. Perhaps in your world the wolves are busy bodies, but where I come from and have lived they are predators. I saw examples of all three categories throughout my years in teaching. Most of the kids I worked with were sheep, problems behaviorally, but not aggressive or predatory. However, there were wolves in the pack, some sociopaths, some simply predatory by nature. If you haven’t met any like them you are lucky. Over more than 40 years in the classroom, I met many, particularly when I taught in Juvenile Hall in Seattle. It is easy to claim, and many on the left do, that the wolves are a product of their environment. I can tell you from first hand experience in dealing with them, they are born that way. The DSM calls them Conduct Disordered, and the description leaves no questions. Another source is Stanton Samenow’s Inside the Criminal Mind. If you think that leftists are just wolves, you are mistaken. Many, most actually, are no more than sheep. Their leaders are, to a large extent, wolves.
I will not disagree with you since what you say is a profession of faith. I don’t share your beliefs, but I respect them and your right to believe as you do.
I tend to think most of the people I met in prison were psychopaths. When a guy says with a twinkle in his eye and bouncing on the balls of his feet that he robbed 7-11s because he had to feed the kids, he’s a psychopath.
Added: Just for the record, I wasn’t an inmate, I worked in prisons. :)
I think it’s a good book, although opinions vary. I read it as a child and then again several times as an adult. There’s a great deal of truth in it, whether the author intended it or not. I think the story is accurate and savagery is the most likely result in that situation. I hadn’t heard of the Australian boys, good for them and their success. We should all be so fortunate.
I was going to make some clever remarks sorting all this out, but then something flitted across my mind like a bat’s wing, obscuring my view.
By the way, just for the record, I wasn’t an inmate, I worked in prisons. :)
At least that’s what the resume says.
My resume says that I was “employed” in “prisons” for 5 to 7.