"Lord of the Flies" by William Golding

En plena Guerra Fría el autor inglés firmó una sobrecogedora alegoría sobre la naturaleza humana protagonizada por un grupo de niños atrapados en una isla desierta.

Richard Jacques

Bandera UK
Sarah Davison

Speaker (UK accent)

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Lord of the Flies William Golding

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When Lord of the Flies was published in 1954, it delighted readers and was hailed by the critics. Novelist E.M. Forster said it was “beautifully written, tragic and provocative.” The memory of the Second World War was still fresh. Instead of the hoped-for peace and progress, the Cold War had imposed a new sense of impending danger. The background to the novel is a new, deadlier conflict:
 
- “There was a sudden bright explosion and a corkscrew trail across the sky … There was a speck above the island, a figure dropping swiftly beneath a parachute, a figure that hung with dangling limbs”.

“Surgió una repentina y brillante explosión y una huella luminosa serpenteó en el aire [...] Una pequeña mancha descendía sobre la isla; una figura  que caía rápidamente bajo un paracaídas, un cuerpo del que colgaban piernas y brazos inertes.”

Trouble in Paradise

The story is told in classic fashion by an omniscient narrator. A group of boys being evacuated from a nuclear war are stranded on a desert island. There are four main characters. Ralph is an attractive, athletic boy, a natural leader, though “there was a mildness about his mouth and eyes that proclaimed no devil. Piggy is fat and asthmatic but intelligent, the classic schoolboy victim. He is the voice of reason, with his firm belief that “life is scientific”. Jack, the head prefect at a choir school, has a darker side: “We’ll have lots of rules. Then when anyone breaks them…”. Simon, quiet and sensitive, represents the spiritual side of humanity.

Taking Positions

Desert island adventures have always been popular. But while in most of them the protagonists face danger that comes from outside in the shape of hostile natives or pirates, for Golding’s boys the challenge is different. At first they try to organise themselves as they imagine adults would do. They even have a conch shell so that at their meetings only the one holding it can speak. They agree to light a fire so that any passing ship will see the smoke. Jack and his hunters, there are pigs on the island, are supposed to keep it alight. Their failure to do so leads to the first confrontation and the taking of positions that will decide events:

- “Jack stood up, the bloodied knife in his hand. The two boys faced each other. There was the brilliant world of hunting, tactics, fierce exhilaration; and there was the world of longing and baffled common sense”.

“[...] Jack se irguió al decir aquello, con su cuchillo ensangrentado en la mano. Los dos muchachos se miraron cara a cara. Allí estaba el mundo deslumbrante de la caza, la táctica, la destreza y la alegría salvaje; y allí estaba también el mundo de las añoranzas y el sentido común desconcertado”.

A Master of Style

Golding won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983. He is a master of prose, equally adept at narrative, description and dialogue. The conversations are totally convincing, but then he taught at a boy’s school for many years and had a fine ear for their quirks of speech: Piggy’s “What are we? Savages? What’s grown-ups going to think?” and Jack’s comeback: “You shut up, you fat slugring true. The descriptions are full of vivid similes and metaphors, strong verbs that are fresh and alive. Take the paragraph where he describes the fire, which seems to have a life of its own

- “Small flames stirred at the bole of a tree and crawled away through leaves and brushwood… One patch touched a tree trunk and scrambled up like a bright squirrel. The smoke increased, sifted, rolled outwards. The squirrel leapt on the wings of the wind and clung to another standing tree, eating downwards”. 

“Llamas pequeñas se agitaron junto al tronco de un árbol y se arrastraron entre las hojas y el ramaje seco, dividiéndose y creciendo. Un brote rozó el tronco de un árbol y trepó por él como una ardilla brillante. El humo creció, osciló y rodó hacia fuera. La ardilla saltó sobre las alas del viento y se asió a otro de los árboles en pie, devorándolo desde la copa”.

The End of Idealism

The book has been filmed three times, the most interesting being the first, directed by Peter Brook in 1963. Filmed in austere black and white with a cast of amateur child actors, it captures something of the feel of the novel. But this is essentially a literary experience. Golding’s view of the way in which what begins as a quest for civilisation degenerates into savagery has been much criticised by those who would like to believe that man is essentially good, corrupted by the world around him. But the discovery of what had happened in the concentration camps had traumatised Western society and made it difficult to cling to such optimistic views. The Lord of the Flies is the rotting pig’s head on a stake, an offering to the forces of darkness. Only one of the boys is able to see it for what it is:

- “At last Simon gave up and looked back; saw the white teeth and the dim eyes, the blood–and his gaze was held by the ancient inescapable recognition. In Simon’s right temple, a pulse began to beat on the brain”.

“Por fin se dio Simon por vencido y abrió los ojos; vio los blancos dientes y los ojos sombríos, la sangre... y su mirada quedó cautiva del antiguo e inevitable encuentro. El pulso de la sien derecha de Simon empezó a latirle”.

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