A plane crashes on a desert island and the only survivors, a group of schoolboys, assemble on the beach and wait to be rescued. By day they inhabit a land of bright fantastic birds and dark blue seas, but at night their dreams are haunted by the image of a terrifying beast. As the boys’ delicate sense of order fades, so their childish dreams are transformed into something more primitive, and their behaviour starts to take on a murderous, savage significance.
I picked this book up ages ago at a book swap and it’s been sitting on my bookshelf ever since. I decided to add it to my April TBR list because I’m attempting to read more classics.
The story begins with a few boys emerging from a plane wreckage in a jungle. Ralph, a strong natural leader, meets another, bespectacled, overweight boy who quickly becomes known as Piggy. The pair of them discover a conch in a water pool and use it to call all the other boys who have survived the plane crash to a meeting. A fairly large group arrives, and they begin to discuss their plans. Ralph is elected as the chief, much to the distaste of Jack, the captain of the choir.
Together the boys formulate rules and plans. They decide to light a fire on the mountain, as a signal to any ships that may be sailing in the water around the island, and build shelters down by the beach. At first the plans work well and they maintain a sense of order.
However, as time passes, dissatisfaction begins to emerge among some of the group. Jack is fixated on hunting the pigs that are on the island, while Ralph believes that the fire is the most important thing to focus on. The group dynamics become more and more disjointed and the boys grow more savage.
I thought the book was quite good. The progression from a group of normal boys to a group resembling wild animals is quite disturbing, but believable. It demonstrates the dependence that children have on adults to provide them with structure and rules. The only criticism I have is that I sometimes lost track of the characters. There were quite a few different boys’ names and I think the book would have been better if it had focused more on just a few rather than trying to include so many.
The world, that understandable and lawful world, was slipping away.