Lord of the Flies
1954 Written by William Golding in 1954, Lord of the Flies exemplifies the modernist movement by truly depicting the radical ideas of writers during the movement. The compelling story, following the adventures of a group of boys stranded on an island, and through several themes, including social order, fear of the unknown, loss of identity, and clarity and reason, are all clear examples of thoughts of writers during this time period.
Upon arriving on the island, alone and without any grown-ups to watch over them, Ralph, along with another boy known as Piggy, find a conch along the shoreline of the island and use the shell as a horn to gather everyone together. The boys decide that there should be a chief; Ralph, one of the older boys on the island, is voted chief, and almost immediately assumes responsibility. He delegates several tasks, such as keeping a signal fire lit, to several of the other boys in the group, showing his leadership. All of these events combined show the beginnings of social order on the island; the concept becomes important to the way of life that the boys learn to live by, especially as competition for a leadership position brews between Ralph and Jack. However, the competition on the island takes a turn toward viciousness and the loss of innocence, showing the true nature of humans; this same idea is also evident in the fighting and vicious nature behind the two world wars. As exploration of the island begins, many of the boys, particularly the younger ones, become frightened of the possibilities of what could be on the island. Various "beasties" haunt their dreams, prompting Jack and the other hunters to search for any other creatures. Even though only wild pigs are found, there is still an aura of fear among all of the boys. The darkness also looms over the group; their fear of it prevents them from making any adventurous moves during the night, and intensifies their fears of creatures that could be on the island. These same sort of fears existed among domestic people all around the world, especially during the wars. Mothers certainly had something to be fearful of in not knowing whether their husbands and sons would return home. Even after the war, the Cold War brought on the fear of more nuclear attacks. These possibilities would be enough to drive anyone mad, as it did the boys in Lord of the Flies.
Loss of identity is another common theme in the novel. As time goes on, the boys stop differentiating between each other. The younger boys, or "little ones," become referred to as "littluns," rather than by their given names. The trend continues with Sam and Eric, twins; they become known as Samneric, almost as if they are one person. Although this could be perceived as a bad thing, the idea reflects attitudes after World War II; many people during and after the war were forced to move around or out of their homelands. By moving to a new place with new cultures, they would have lost some of the culture they brought with them, instead taking on a new identity as an immigrant. This same concept can be related to the boys on the island; they may have come from proper, English backgrounds, but all sense of humanity was lost when they realized they were going to have to depend only on each other for survival.
Finally, the clarity and reason evident in Lord of the Flies are fantastic examples of the clarity and reason that existed leading up to and within the modernist movement. Writers began to think from a scientific, logical perspective, and in this era, they began combining these thoughts with the radical ideas that we see in most of the literature. In the novel, Piggy, along with his "specs," represents the clarity and reason that adults would have had, had they been on the island as well. Piggy may be the center of all teasing, but his ideas are the most rational out of everyone. Simon also helps to provide reason in the matter of the beasts; he is convinced that the beast is nonexistent, and is determined to prove it. He knows that they are alone on the island and that they should not be worried about anything; he does eventually prove this, but at a price.
Throughout William Golding's most famous novel, he demonstrates his knowledge and experience relating to the war and the modernist movement through the characters he develops and the actions they take. These aspects exemplify everything that this era of literature should; the book is interesting, while still captivating your attention.