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Background Info

Author Bio

Full Name: William Golding

Date of Birth: 1911

Place of Birth: Cornwall, England

Date of Death: 1993

Brief Life Story: William Golding's parents brought him up to be a scientist. But he always had an interest in reading and writing, and at Oxford University he shifted from the sciences to literature. Golding fought in World War II, and was involved in the D-Day landing at Normandy. His experience in the war greatly influenced his views of human nature. After the war, he began writing novels in addition to teaching. Lord of the Flies was Golding's first novel, published in 1954, and was a critically acclaimed bestseller in both England and the United States. Though Golding never again achieved the same commercial success, he continued to write and went on to publish many more novels, including The Scorpion God (1971), Darkness Visible (1979), and Fire Down Below (1989). He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1983 and died in 1993.

Key Facts

Full Title: Lord of the Flies

Genre: Allegorical novel / Adventure novel

Setting: A deserted tropical island in the middle of a nuclear world war

Climax: Piggy's death

Protagonist: Ralph

Antagonists: Jack and the Lord of the Flies

Point of View: Third person omniscient

Historical and Literary Context

Where Written: England

When Published: 1954

Literary Period: Post-war fiction

Related Literary Works: Adventure stories such as Robinson Crusoe and Swiss Family Robinson depict people who are stranded on deserted islands transforming and civilizing nature. Lord of the Flies subverts the genre. It shows boys stranded on an island who try to civilize nature, but instead descend into savagery. While other adventure novels support the idea that man is inherently civilized, Lord of the Flies uses the genre to suggest exactly the opposite.

Related Historical Events: World War II influenced the themes and setting of Lord of the Flies. The war changed the way people in general and William Golding in particular viewed the world. World War I was for many years called the War to End All Wars. World War II proved that idea wrong and created a new sense that people are inherently warlike, power hungry, and savage. While the world war raging in Lord of the Flies is not World War II, it can be viewed as Golding's version of World War III. Only a few brief references to the war outside the boys' island appear in the novel, but references to an atom bomb blowing up an airport and the "Reds" make it clear that the war involves nuclear weapons and places capitalist allies including the British against the communist "Reds."

Extra Credit

Beelzebub. The phrase "lord of the flies" is a translation of the Greek "Beelzebub," a devil mentioned in the New Testament. In the Bible, Beelzebub sometimes seems to be Satan himself, and at other times seems to be Satan's most powerful lieutenant.

Coral Island. William Golding based several of the main ideas in Lord of the Flies on Coral Island (1858), a somewhat obscure novel by Robert Ballantyne, a 19th-century British novelist. In Coral Island, three English boys create an idyllic society after being shipwrecked on a deserted island. They battle wild hogs, typhoons, hostile island visitors, and eventually Pirates on the South Seas.