Tuesday, May 03, 2016
I Got the Conch!
I never planned on reading "Lord of the Flies," though, with good reason, I think it's one of those stories we're just born sort of knowing. In high school, I remember kids reading it, but I couldn't be bothered with anything that wasn't science fiction. I wasn't a fan of the movie version from the 1990s. I'd had my glasses smacked off my face enough times to empathize with Piggy, but my reactions were typically the opposite of the poor, whimpering asthmatic.
Recently, in a fit of desperation to watch a "classic" movie from Hulu's so-named category, I settled on the 1960s version. The acting was terrible and the plot lumbered along as clumsily as "The Beast" tethered on the cliff by its parachute, but it left enough of an impression upon me to finally break down and read the book. I devoured it as rabidly as the little brats on the island devoured the pigs they'd killed. As a high-schooler, I most likely would've hated the book upon learning that the Lord of the Flies wasn't the Devil Himself, but rather the imaginary beast it was. As an adult, while still a finicky reader, it's easy to see why this book has endured for well over half a century and will probably be relevant long after anyone reading this is dead and gone.
I've often been quoted as referring to junior high/middle school, and particularly the gym classes one has to endure during one's stretch in said institutions as "Lord of the Flies." My favorite director, Sam Peckenpah, set an example in his horse opera "The Wild Bunch," that kids are simply the worst creatures on the planet and the trouble with kids is some of them grow into adulthood. Only a few of them actually grow up. Some of the children I've had to deal with in my adult life as well as their so-called parents leads me to believe he may be right. Sadly, though not surprisingly.
The author, William Golding, knew well the tribal and savage nature of children, having been a school teacher himself, which is most likely the reason the book's protagonist, Ralph, insisted on a constant smoke signal, which in the end, winds up being their salvation. After all, where there's smoke, there's fire, right? And what did Prometheus bring down from Mount Olympus but fire? And what is fire but the light? Or knowledge? The only thing to save humanity from itself. Or bring about its destruction. The choice is ours to make.
I'm not holding my breath.