Lord of the Flies by William Golding was written just after World War II. It is the classic story of a group of boys stranded on an island attempting to build a society. The Lord of the Flies has faced its share of criticism from many writers. One such writer, R.C. Townsend, criticizes Golding’s work in “The Lord of the Flies: Fool’s Gold”. Townsend argues that children should not be reading Golding’s work because his views on the defects of human nature are ludicrous. Also, he argues that Golding contradicts his main theme in the conclusion of novel. Despite Townsend’s criticism, Lord of the Flies should be a required reading because it expresses the opinions of many people who have lived through World War II.
One of Townsend’s main points was that The Lord of the Flies attempts to convert children to Golding’s way of thinking. He says about Golding, “he is…exploiting the thousands of students who are committed to the book” (2). Townsend truly believes that if a person is young and unwise he/she will take on the views of the author that he/she reads. In addition, he believes that the people who assign the book to students are guilty like Golding for sending out the wrong messages. He says, “teachers of literature and political science…have contributed greatly. It is they, after all, who assign the book and it seems that the book was first read (and still is read) as a required reading” (2). Teachers can assign the book because students should be able to analyze whether the thesis is correct or not.
Townsend’s criticism fails to consider several important points. The Lord of the Flies does not necessarily cause students to have a negative view of the human race. Once one reaches a certain age he/she develops his/her own opinions. Some, like Golding, believe that one is prone to violence, while others believe that with some direction one can be naturally good. Also, Townsend fails to acknowledge that the book is not assigned to young students. It is a required reading, when one is able to comprehend the main theme of the book and determine whether it is right or wrong. Furthermore, Townsend’s point that any book or magazine brainwashes a student is ridiculous. For example history at LHS teaches us about the communist perspective. We learn that government controls production in a society that teaches group interest over self interest. A student at LHS does not necessarily support the ideals of communism after reading about it. Almost everything a person reads will most definitely be written in a slanted point of view. Townsend fails to see that students are vulnerable to the views of elders, which is not true.
Another main point made by Townsend was that Golding’s conclusion to Lord of the Flies did not support his thesis. Golding’s thesis was that man is naturally born with defects, prone to violence and corruption. The conclusion occurrs when the savage boys, led by Jack and Roger, chase Ralph attempting to kill him while burning down the island. While Ralph runs his life he maintains a panicky feeling as his heart pumps a thousand times per second when all of a sudden, out of the blue, he runs into a naval officer. The naval officer claims to have seen the smoke from the savage fire, indicating rescue. Townsend is clearly dissatisfied with the ending. In his editorial he points out, “We are still relieved that the book ends…far less unhappily than it might have had Golding either carried its fable out to the conclusion that would be most natural to it or followed the implications of his thesis to the end”(3). According to Townsend, the best way for Golding to support his conclusion would be to carry out the ending letting Ralph die. Because Ralph continues to live, he prevents more attackings by the savages, which contradicts Golding’s thesis that man would be prone to even more violence.
On this issue, Townsend makes a valid point. The conclusion does not support the thesis. In the conclusion, Ralph, a good natured boy, runs for his life against the savage boys. To his luck he runs into a British Naval officer. The conclusion raises a battle between good and evil. If good defeats evil, then further violence will be prevented. On the other hand, if evil defeats good, violence is inevitable. According to Golding’s thesis, man is naturally prone to violence. By running into the British naval officer, Ralph defeats the evil in all of the boys when they are reminded of their civilized past in Britain. Ralph prevents further violence, as his life is no longer in danger. The ending to the violence contradicts Golding’s theme that man will naturally be violent. Also the fact that a British naval officer rescues the boys and not a German naval officer coincides with this point. It is another example of how good defeats evil. The British had an alliance with the Allies, who prevented the Germans from militarily or violently conquering the world Golding could have supported his thesis in the conclusion better by showing a continuation of violence with the death of Ralph.
J.C. Townsend may criticize every aspect of Golding’s book, but Golding had to do something right in his book, otherwise it would not have been a bestseller. The book maintains the reader’s attention as the novel progresses with a lot of action from the meeting to introduce the idea of the rescue fire to the power struggle between Ralph and Jack. Although Townsend feels that conclusion was dissatisfying because Golding’s thesis was not supported, what conclusion to a novel satisfies a reader? No matter how the writer ends the novel there will always be readers who want a happy ending or readers who want a realistic ending. Furthermore, Townsend points out that Golding wrote a happy ending to his novel. Golding could have wanted to end the novel on a good note without realizing he would cause much controversy. This is one reason Townsend mentions that the book should be banned from schools. On the other hand it is important to read the works of people whose views are much different than ours. Golding lived during a time of war, which could have put the world into a different perspective for him.
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