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Archive for September 3rd, 2015

LORD 5

by Sam Juliano

There are some high school novels that have maintained their popularity for decades.  William Golding’s Lord of the Flies rivals Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird and J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye as a perennial favorite of teachers who regarded it as a perfect devise to project theme in a literature class.  The schoolboy cast of characters, the appeal of an uninhabited island, and the story arc that features anarchy and violence immediately pulls in most male readers, though educators will usually want to employ a female oriented title like The Diary of Anne Frank to maintain a gender status quo.  The book’s allegory is broad and accessible, and invites a bevy of interpretations, though it certainly is easy enough to frame the work as a parable about the thin pretense between civilization and barbarism.  Golding’s prologue asserts that a planeload of boys are evacuated from a public school, but it is subsequently shot down over the Pacific Ocean.  Certainly it is stretch to believe that the boys survive such a calamity, washing up on the shore of the island, but there are far worse ways Golding could have concocted to get his schoolboys in the place where the entire story plays out.

Much like Larry Pearce, who opted for non-professionals young actors for his adaptation of John Knowles’ A Separate Peace (another high school book list favorite) the director of the 1963 black and white film version, Peter Brook, went with kids with no prior acting experience.  The film was shot in exotic locales on the islands of Puerto Rico and Jamaica, and is in large measure faithful to Golding’s novel.  Brook adds the proposition that the threat of nuclear war caused the evacuation, but one would be hard-pressed to find any instances where he altered the narrative.  Brook understands that it is a major challenge to transfer literary allegory to the screen, and the complexity of the words the boys speak broadens and enriches this frightening tale of societal disintegration played out without a single adult to serve as a potential guiding force.  It is a tall order to properly transcribe the deeper context to a full level of understanding, though it is doubtful that many who come to the film are Lord of the Flies neophytes, or don’t at least  know a degree of its thematic underpinnings.  The dramatization of the conflict between the civilizing and barbarizing instincts that are part of the essence of all human beings is one that has been examined in literature and film, but perhaps never as vividly posed.  one one side according to the author, we have morality, law, culture and civility, on the other anarchy, blood lust, the thirst for power, amorality and narcissism.  the latter qualities lead to the violence that dominates the latter half of the novel and film. (more…)

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