When Was Lord of the Flies Published?

Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

When was ''Lord of the Flies'' published? The short answer is, 'In 1954'. But what about the historical context of the time period? What events influenced the writing and publication of the novel? This lesson seeks to answer these questions!

Stranded on a Desert Island

If you've ever read William Golding's Lord of the Flies, then you're familiar with the basic premise of the book. In a nutshell, a group of boys are stranded on a deserted island when their plane is shot down over the Pacific. The boys have no adult supervision and are forced to find a way to survive. The boys are torn between the rules and beliefs of the society they were raised in and the author's rendering of human nature. Should they behave like the civilized boys they were raised to be and subscribe to rules, order, and democracy? OR, should they give in to the inherent lawlessness and savagery of the island?

William Golding's Lord of the Flies is an immensely popular novel today. In fact, it's a part of many high school English curricula, but how much do readers really know about the historical context of the novel? What would possess Golding to write about boys who devolve so rapidly from civilized beings to complete savages? Stay tuned to find out!

Reflection of Golding's Experiences

Much of William Golding's novel is influenced by his personal experience. Golding was raised by a forward-thinking family. His parents supported women's suffrage, and his dad was a firm believer in rationalism. Through the early part of the 20th century, rationalists embraced science, reason, and knowledge as the foundation of logical thought and decision-making. Humans could behave independent of their emotions and superstitions.

After finishing school, Golding dabbled as a writer and an actor before teaching at an all-boys school in England in 1939. Within a year, however, he fought in the British Royal Navy from 1940 to 1945 during World War II. Golding's wartime experience and the aftermath of the global conflict had a profound impact on his vision for Lord of the Flies.

Historical Context

Lord of the Flies was written in the early 1950s and published in 1954. As mentioned before, Golding fought during World War II and personally witnessed all manner of human evils. In the wake of World War II, Golding was disillusioned by mankind. The advent of Nazi Germany, the Holocaust, and the effects of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan drastically shaped Golding's worldview. He was increasingly convinced of the inherent evils of human nature. In this context, rationalism simply did not apply. It did not matter if mankind was capable of turning to science and reason to make decisions. People could not truly override the natural inclination to do wrong.

One of the most obvious parallels between Lord of the Flies and these events is the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany. Golding's character Jack is much like Hitler. He's power-hungry. He preys on the fears of people around him. He has vision and direction, albeit a terrible one. Golding emphasizes the role that fear plays in human decision-making and the false hope of science. This concept is reflected in his character Piggy, who does his best to allay the fear of the other boys with psychology. This ultimately does not work, as it leads to Piggy's demise.

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