Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

The Lost Book Club: Lord of the Flies

I read William Golding’s Lord of the Flies back in high school and couldn’t put it down. I read it pretty much straight through, which is exactly what happened the other day when I reread it front to back in one sitting. Amazing work.

Lord of the Flies is rich in the kind of symbolism and subtext that makes it more than just a tale about a group of boys just losing it on a deserted island. It explores the very nature of evil and positions it firmly within the human heart. The boys had everything and they threw it all away, partially out of fear of imaginary beasts and partially to satisfy their own hunger.

I find the book a little more chilling now than I did when I was a teenager. Then, it was a cracking good story that I couldn’t put down. Now it seems so much more believable and therefore more terrifying.

In terms of Lost, there are many connections, many similarities, but each with a twist. There is Jack who, like Ralph in Lord of the Flies is allowed to lead by popular consent. There is the hunter (John Locke) who goes after wild pigs and brings meat back to the survivors, but unlike the cruel Jack of Lord of the Flies, Locke is kind and (so far anyway) unwilling to challenge Jack’s authority. The lack of tension between these two types in Lost is probably due to the fact that we are dealing with adults as opposed to children who are unable to recognize that fact that they need one another.

Another similarity is the beast, but where in Lord of the Flies the beast is a figment of the boys’ imagination, in Lost, the beast is, apparently, quite real.

Thematically, Lost and Lord of the Flies (along with Heart of Darkness) address the issue of the fragility of civilization and the speed with which civilized people will revert into behavior they would have called barbaric from the comfort of their old living rooms. The Oceanic survivors of Lost have not reverted as far as Jack’s tribe in Lord of the Flies, but at times the fine line between civilized and savage seems very fine indeed.

The last issue in both works stems from the problem of evil. Is it external or contained within the hearts of all men? Lord of the Flies suggests we all carry the capacity for evil and that it is civilization that holds it in check, if only sometimes and barely at that. This is still an open question on Lost, though. I’ve wondered before if the survivors have brought evil to the island much as the boys in Lord of the Flies brought evil to what could have been paradise for them. Each survivor has had a checkered past and only “the good ones” have been taken by the others. Back to an original question of mine then. Who are the “good guys” on Lost?

I think Lord of the Flies is a natural inspiration for Lost, though of course, the two tales differ considerably in large part because in Lost we’re dealing with adults who are capable of thinking longterm and recognizing the fact that they need each other to survive and that they must make decisions that will keep them alive for the long term.

Or, perhaps, Lost just hasn’t gone on long enough. The tail section survivors did “go all Lord of the Flies” as Hurley put it. Maybe the rest of the survivors just have to get a little closer to the edge before they start painting themselves and having ritual dances. Probably not. They are adults after all.

For more of my Lost book posts, please visit The Lost Book Club.


  1. I always viewed “Lord of the Flies” as more of a social psychology statement regarding baseline human behaviour and the impact that social mores and constraints have in our adult behaviours.

    LOTF is like many good books, you can walk away from it with a lot of different messages.

  2. That’s definitely one way to read it, and I think when I was in high school that’s how our teacher approached it.

  3. Lord of the Flies is one of my favorite books, and I have read it over 5 times.

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