Books Like Lord of the Flies

Instructor: Vivian Davis

Vivian has a PhD in English literature.

If you liked ''Lord of the Flies'', you're in for a treat. This lesson offers a handy list of books similar to William Golding's 1954 classic. We'll explore predecessors of ''Lord of the Flies'' as well as contemporary alternatives to the novel. A short quiz will follow.

Introduction to Lord of the Flies

William Golding's Lord of the Flies offers its readers a twisted tale of school boys gone wild. After crash landing on a deserted island, a small group of British kids find themselves marooned with absolutely no parental supervision. While at first the boys manage to survive on their own, a power struggle soon erupts over who will call the shots on their tiny island home. When a schism finally splits the boys into two warring factions, more than a little savagery and gore ensues. Chaos descends upon the island and human blood is spilled. Though the novel's focus is on a group of seemingly innocent school children, Golding's novel offers a murderous glimpse of what he sees as the dark heart of human nature.

In this lesson, we'll look at a handful of books that anticipate, echo, or implicitly critique the major themes and characteristics of Golding's novel. We'll primarily focus on the novel's tropical setting, its adolescent characters, and the book's pessimistic view of human nature.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (1719)

If you enjoyed the desert island setting of Lord of the Flies, you should consider cracking open one of the novel's predecessors: Robinson Crusoe. Daniel Defoe's best-selling early novel chronicles the adventures of a shipwrecked mariner. It's the original desert island survival story, and it spawned an entire genre that is known today as the Robinsonade. Unlike Lord of the Flies, however, Defoe's books offers us a protagonist who never devolves into the kind of savagery we see in Golding's book. In fact, Crusoe's experience is quite the opposite. He builds a cozy home, successfully cultivates crops, turns a native islander into his own personal manservant, and eventually turns the island into a booming plantation. Love him or hate him, Robinson Crusoe is the ultimate colonizer and Christian crusader, and Defoe's book is positively optimistic about human's relationship to nature.

The Coral Island: A Tale of the Pacific Ocean by R.M. Ballantyne (1857)

If you conquer Crusoe and are still itching to tackle one of Lord of the Flies' predecessors, take a spin through R.M. Ballantyne's The Coral Island: A Tale of the Pacific Ocean. The novel is influenced by 18th century desert island stories like Robinson Crusoe, but the protagonists are three young children. Like Crusoe, the kids in Ballantyne's book survive and thrive in their tropical paradise, and the novel similarly extols the civilizing effects of Christianity. The book was, after all, written for Victorian schoolchildren. Golding was inspired by Ballantyne's book to write Lord of the Flies, and critics have long pointed out that Golding's much darker, bloodier novel is in many ways a critique of Ballantyne's rosy story. Cool tidbit: The narrator of Ballantyne's book is named Ralph. The protagonist of Lord of the Flies? Also named Ralph.

The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells (1896)

H.G. Wells' late 19th century science fiction classic The Island of Dr. Moreau shares with Lord of the Flies a dark view of human nature; it's also got a tropical setting and plenty of bloody violence. In Wells' novel, a man is castaway on a remote island and soon discovers the laboratory of a deranged scientist named Dr. Moreau. Moreau's experiments are at first a mystery to our traveler, but our protagonist eventually learns that Moreau likes to play God; that is, the good doctor's scientific inquiries involve pain, suffering, and blurring the line between human and animal. If you're looking for a novel that plumbs the depths of human cruelty and questions the cost of scientific advancement, this read is definitely for you.

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