Lord of the Flies | Study Guide

William Golding

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Things You Didn't Know

Every book has a story—check out these 10 unusual facts about Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

Lord of the Flies | 10 Things You Didn't Know

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Published in 1954, William Golding's Lord of the Flies has achieved astounding popular success, selling more than 10 million copies and being translated into at least 30 languages. It is a novel very much of its era—postwar Europe—raw with the horrors of World War II and the start of the nuclear age. But, it is also a timeless tale, focusing on the breakdown of society in a lawless world.

The story of a group of children who, tragically but inevitably, turn on one another to survive has become a familiar trope but still evokes the horror one feels on first reading. Both mythic and immediate, Lord of the Flies continues to fascinate, appall, and discomfit readers.

1. The title Lord of the Flies is another name for Satan.

Beelzebub, the name of a Philistine god or demon, is often translated as "lord of the flies." The name appears in the biblical books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke and is considered another name for Satan. These references to demonic figures reinforce the novel's themes about the nature of evil, cruelty, and power.

2. Golding regretted writing Lord of the Flies.

William Golding referred to the writing in his novel as "boring and crude." He believed it was "a joke" that the book was considered a classic. Late in his life he refused to reread it at all, fearing the novel would dismay him more than he could bear.

3. Lord of the Flies was rejected 21 times before being published.

Lord of the Flies was William Golding's first novel, and he was having financial difficulties when he first tried to get it published in 1953. His daughter, Judy Carver, recalls, "My earliest memory is not of the book itself but of a lot of parcels coming back and being sent off again very quickly." The book received 21 rejections, including one from Faber & Faber, which eventually published the book in 1954.

4. Lord of the Flies was a total flop when it was first published.

Golding was paid only £60 for the publication of Lord of the Flies, and the book sold only 4,662 copies in its first year. Seven years later Golding did a lecture tour in the United States on college campuses, and the paperback edition of the book came out. By 1962 it had sold half a million copies.

5. Golding was awarded a Nobel Prize, in part for Lord of the Flies.

In 1983 William Golding won the Nobel Prize in Literature. In writing their summary, the Nobel committee stated that the prize was awarded "for his novels which, with the perspicuity of realistic narrative art and the diversity and universality of myth, illuminate the human condition in the world of today."

6. Lord of the Flies is one of Stephen King's favorite books.

Stephen King, the master of the horror novel whose works include Carrie and The Shining, listed Lord of the Flies as fifth of his 10 favorite books. He wrote an introduction for the centenary edition of the novel in which he stated:

It was, so far as I can remember, the first book with hands—strong ones that reached out of the pages and seized me by the throat. It said to me, 'This is not just entertainment; it's life-or-death.'

7. The original draft of Lord of the Flies started on the plane, not the island.

The handwritten draft of Lord of the Flies began with an attack on the plane carrying the boys, which occurs during a nuclear war. While the attack and war are implied in the published version, they are not overtly described. The handwritten draft describes the plane as "howling away at 50,000 feet" and "packed with a job lot of children."

8. Lord of the Flies has inspired songs by rock and hip-hop musicians.

The novel's message about human nature have spread widely throughout popular culture, especially in music—artists from rappers to heavy metal bands have referenced the novel. The song "Willie Burke Sherwood" (2012) by Killer Mike includes the lines "I knew that the weak and the meek couldn't make it in the street/Had to assert yourself to survive/So I convinced myself it was better for me/To be Jack in the Lord of the Flies." Iron Maiden's "Lord of the Flies" (1995) states, "Saints and sinners/Something within us/We are lord of the flies."

9. Lord of the Flies is one of the most-banned books in the United States.

Lord of the Flies is listed at number 8 on the American Library Association's list of Banned and Challenged Classics. It has been challenged in several states for offenses including profanity, passages about sex, defamation of minorities, God, women, and the disabled, and claims that it is "demoralizing inasmuch as it implies that man is little more than an animal."

10. Golding thought Lord of the Flies wouldn't work with a group of girls.

Lord of the Flies explores themes of violence and lust for power—behaviors typically associated with masculinity. In an interview, Golding suggested that a group of young boys, as opposed to young girls, offers a more accurate image of how society functions on a large scale. On the subject, Golding said:

I think women are foolish to pretend they are equal to men; they are far superior and always have been.

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