Banned Books: Lord of the Flies
Banning or challenging books consists of reviewing and regulating material considered to be offensive or unlawful. Usually, governments, religious institutions, and other authorities practice book banning in literature “seen as being in some way threatening to the welfare of the state”, yet the practice has decreased over centuries (Banned Books). Today, small institutions, schools, and libraries challenge books based on sexual content, offensive language, violence, and other thematic issues, which often result in “concerns over the appropriateness of certain books for young readers” (Banned Books).
Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, received several challenges such as that of the 1992 Iowa School Board, due to its “profanity, lurid passages about sex, and statements defamatory to minorities, God, women, and the disabled” (ThoughtCo). In addition, the original novel suffered controversy from North Carolina’s Owen High School in 1981 due to the overall theme viewed “demoralizing… as it implies that man is little more than an animal” (ThoughtCo). Regardless of the novel’s extensive violence, language, and heavy thematic content, Lord of the Flies should not be banned, for Golding exemplifies to the reader the complexities of humankind, while presenting a moral allegory that forces the reader to question what it truly means to be humane. Censorship may be defined by the “methods of preventing the publication or dissemination of speech, printed matter, art, theater, music, electronic media, or other forms of expression,” often because they do not coincide with certain beliefs or rules (Laursen). Governments and cultural authorities have continuously censored and banned material for centuries, yet previously, written material could be permanently burned or disposed of. However, after the invention of the printing press in 1450, novels became increasingly accessible; therefore, this forced authoritative systems to discover new methods of suppressing ideas, eventually leading to the first office devoted solely to censorship (Banned Books).
In addition to these new German policies, the Roman Catholic Church made its first major “foray into book censorship in 1557, with the publication of the first version of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum,” consisting of books prohibited and not recognized by Church authority (Banned Books). Although the act of banning books no longer remains common worldwide, censorship still continues, however typically based on appropriateness for readers. Regardless, government censorship in the United States directly contrasts with the ideals of the Constitution, specifically the First Amendment stating “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…,” therefore protecting each individual’s rights and freedoms to create and absorb content (Laursen). Because of this, citizens of the United States must be granted the privilege to all materials and thoughts, including literature, speech, and the arts, without government restriction. The original version of Lord of the Flies typically received controversy for its graphic scenes when presenting Golding’s “primal, fearsome sense of human evil and human mystery” (Feeney).
Often, the banning of the novel results from its statements and violent scenery, yet also because of its alternative suggestions on human nature, good versus evil, morality, and the animal instinct found even within the innocence of children. Golding has undergone wide criticism for his chosen themes, however English author and academic Malcolm Bradbury claims he was “a teller of ‘”primal stories- about the birth of speech, the dawn of evil, the strange sources of art”‘ (Feeney). The central themes of Golding’s most famous novel may be widely inspired from his time serving in the Royal Navy of World War II, for he exclaims, ‘”Before the second World War, I believed in the perfectibility of social man,”‘ until his experiences proved “what man could do to another… the vileness beyond all words”‘ (Feeney). During one of the most deadly wars of modern history, Golding discovered the other side to mankind, the side of which humans suddenly become capable of controlling, harming, and destroying one another. His experiences translated through his two most famous novels, Lord of the Flies, and Darkness Visible, each revealing “an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature” (Feeney). Golding’s motivation for writing such controversial literature lies in his belief that the success of society relies on the beliefs and actions of each person, rather than a specific government system, whether it be totalitarian or democratic.
The major reasons for the challenging of Lord of the Flies include graphic violence along with controversial thematic suggestion of societies. For example, while the schoolboys remain stranded on the island waiting for rescue, they discover “a figure dropping swiftly beneath a parachute, a figure that hung with dangling limbs,” a grownup of the outside world they once took comfort in (Golding 95). While this depicts a graphic image of death, it also shows that, although the boys believe they seek rescue from the island, Golding reminds the reader that the evil does not lie within the physical location itself, but rather exists even in the adulthood they believe to be their savior. A major acceptance to this evil within the children comes along with the first pig hunt, where the boys “flung themselves wildly, scrabbled in the creepers, screaming… Kill the pig! Cut his throat! Kill the pig! Bash him in!” (Golding 114). This scene represents the first abandonment of their previous desires for order and peace, while the impulse to hunt and kill becomes prominent.
Ralph too, who, throughout the novel symbolizes order, humanity, and structure, even finds himself succumbing to his inner want of flesh, for “the desire to squeeze and hurt was overmastering,” (Golding 115). This represents the unsettling idea that all people, even those appearing pure and good, contain the capability of immorality, for it is a part of humanity’s complex makeup and capability. This moral statement continues further to the end of the novel, when conflict between Jack and Ralph’s camps escalates. The reader visualizes both sides of human nature, as Jack’s camp represents a desire for power and flesh, while Ralph’s camp symbolizes attempted order. However, once the two meet and they “felt the power in their own hands,” death arises and claims Piggy, Ralph’s greatest ally and voice of reason. During their ultimate example of instinct and disorder, the boys clash, and Piggy plunges to his death, with his body twitching “like a pig’s after it has been killed,” (Golding 181).
Not only does this scene prove to be the most graphic and brutal, but it displays the battle between both aspects of human nature, represented by the two contrasting camps, with inhumanity and the savagery of animal instinct outweighing the good and civilized. Furthermore, these explicit scenes exemplify Golding’s controversial suggestion that humanity is filled with good yet complexity, which includes an often unrealized capability of evil towards another. Overall, Lord of the Flies should not be banned, for Golding creates the scenes above to represent his central theme of the intricacy and capability of humanity. The novel uses its story of the fear found in stranded schoolboys to blend “themes of warfare and childhood to illustrate a dark vision of humanity” (Lord of the Flies). By writing stories using his personal experiences during World War II, along with the time of becoming a school instructor, Golding teaches the reader that even the youngest and morally innocent of society prove capable of lawlessness and destruction. The difficult thematic content seen in the scenes above should not be challenged, for they fulfill a revelation of the undeniable truth, while he indicates “the moral is that the shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual, and not on any political system” (Themes and Construction).
Golding accomplished what he desired to achieve, for he paints a picture of the savagery found even in those supposedly morally pure and not yet corrupt, who ultimately fall to death and disorder. This statement sums up the ending paragraph, where “Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of a man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy” (Golding 202). As the rescue occurs, Ralph finally comprehends their loss of innocence and good, and the evil that continues to exist for as long as mankind remains. The novel concludes with one final statement, for the officer, after supposedly rescuing them from the beasts of the island, “[allows] his eyes to rest on the trim cruiser in the distance,” or a form of warfare (Golding 202). Golding solidifies within the reader that the evil did not exist solely on the island, but rather also in the outside, adult world consumed with war and chaos, the very same world that the children believed would become their savior. To conclude, Lord of the Flies should not be banned, for these statements and symbols represent an undeniable truth that force the reader to reflect and examine their individual nature, along with what it truly means to be human in society.
Books causing one to reflect past the plot may be interpreted as dangerous to some, yet banning these novels remains unconstitutional, for it prohibits readers from thinking beyond to expand individual ideas and beliefs. Works Cited “Banned Books.” Gale Student Resources in Context, Gale, 2013. Student Resources in Context, Accessed 18 Apr. 2017.
Feeney, Joseph J. “William Golding (1911-93): Lord of horror, lord of awe.” America, 31 July 1993, p. 6+. Student Resources in Context, Accessed 18 Apr. 2017.
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. New York, Penguin Books, 2006. Laursen, John Christian. “Censorship.” New Dictionary of the History of Ideas, edited by Maryanne Cline Horowitz, vol.
1, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2005, pp. 290-295. Student Resources in Context. Accessed 22 Apr. 2017.
“Lord of the Flies.” Gale Student Resources in Context, Gale, 2015. Student Resources in Context, Accessed 18 Apr. 2017. “Themes and Construction: Lord of the Flies.
” EXPLORING Novels, Gale, 2003. Student Resources in Context, Accessed 18 Apr. 2017.