Thursday, 28 July 2011

The Lord of the Flies Or Where Did the Series Lost Came From

We all know that the idea for the popular TV Show Big Brother came from Orwell's famous dystopia 1984. While we shamelessly enter the most personal lives of other people, while we watch them talk, communicate, fight, bath, go to the toilette, even have sex, we without any doubt don't realize the extremity of control in Orwell's world and the devastating effects of this control onto the human mind. But, as the Romans said it, people want bread and circuses.

Similarly, the TV series Lost, which last seasons I watched simply because I started to (otherwise they were complete bullshit) were inspired by a book. Not many people know it, but The Lord of the Flies by William Golding has strikingly similar plot to the popular TV show, and even one of the characters is named Jack. As always the original, the book, is far better than TV. But that is common sense of course.

The Noble-prize winner Golding tells about a group of British boys stuck on a deserted island. We don't know how and why they came her and frankly this is not important. The kids are left to what appears to be heaven. Without parental control and supervision, they should be free to play games, to enjoy the island, to hunt, to have fun, and in fact never to want to leave. Unfortunately, as life constantly shows us in the most painful way, sometimes the things we crave for are rarely the things we really need. The characters of the boys portray a wide picture of the human qualities and defaults. In that way Golding discusses the painful subject of human nature and individual welfare versus the common good. It is never stated but it is mostly implied that the story takes place during a possible Nuclear war. "The Reds" are mentioned several times, which of course points the mind to the Cold War.

The story is simple, the plot is trivial, but the impression and the intimation of the book are shocking and powerful. Three of the boys stand out among the huge crowd deserted on the island. Ralph represents the democratically elected leader. He is chosen not through coercion or persuasion but through the common democratic way - he wins the most votes in the beginning. Thus, the kids try to create their own mini-world where tasks are divided among people and the leader supervises and observes all. Unfortunately, their attempts are doomed to failure. The bifurcated human nature is predestined to rebellions, doubts, and conflicts. Ralph is a good leader but he lacks the most important leadership qualities - he is not forward-looking, inspiring, and convincing. At the beginning of the story he realized the importance of keeping a fire so that ships can see it and rescue them. As the boys spend more and more time on the deserted island, Ralph starts forgetting why they need the fire and most importantly, he forgets how to inspire and control the other boys. The result is anarchy.

Opposing Ralph is Jack. Jack, the hunter-boy, represents all the flaws in human nature. He is arrogant, impulsive, cruel, and selfish. Just like Ralph, he is born a leader, but when he loses the power, he starts an uprising to usurp it. The clash between the two boys shakes the stability and the peace on the island. Without cooperation, the salvation is impossible; the two opposing forces spend more time fighting each other than working together for the common good. Golding here is pessimistic about human nature. He realized that people will always strive to be on top for their own interests, disregarding what is best for the masses. Jack lurs the boys with promises of meat, fun, and freedom and is soon transformed into a form of semi-God. Ralph falls into exile slowly losing his supporters.

The most interesting character for me is undoubtedly Piggy. He is the most vulnerable to the ridicule of the other boys - with poor eyesight, astma, and weight problem. Piggy represents all those people in contemporary society who exist so that the insecure and powerless can have someone to exert their complexes on. Yet, Piggy is the most intellectual and wit of all the boys. Ralph's right hand, the boy represents the rational world and the adult figure. Unfortunately, he lacks leadership qualities and his advice to Ralph are not enough.

The world in The Lord of the Flies is not perfect; it is the conflict between the group and the individual, between morality and immorality, between the rational and the emotional thinking. Golding shows the strive of the civilization to live according to rules and the inevitable will for power and control from the strongest ones. This is not a story about kids; this is a story about adults and I see examples of it daily. How to ensure democracy and stability, how to obey the rules yet protecting our individuality, how to live as one, yet in a group, I still don't know the answers to these questions. After the terrible terrorist act in Norway a few days ago, I am even more pessimistic about human nature. There were, there are, and unfortunately there will be people, who see themselves as warriors for the world, who will attempt to change it through terror. Human nature is closer to the animals than we let ourselves to think; we are just not programmed to live in harmony and peace; we are doomed to self-destruction. It is our inherent trait, just like the original sin.

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