The Lord of the Flies: Historical Context
William Golding (1911-1993) published his first novel, Lord of the Flies, in 1954. Born in Cornwall, England, Golding served in the Royal Navy during World War Two. Golding’s experiences during the war greatly influenced his views on humanity and the evil that lies within all human beings. He holds a pessimistic view of humans, believing we are always surprisingly close to descending into our violent primitive state of pure brutality.
The novel explores the balance between civility and savagery, particularly when individuals are separated from the law and order of civilized society.
Lord of the Flies was published in the early years of the Cold War. Some argue that the two leaders of the novel represent the liberal West and the totalitarianism of Communism. Interestingly, the book is unclear as to when the story takes place.
The timing appears to be some time in the distant future. The possibility of atomic bomb denotation is discussed. Perhaps the story capitalizes on the interest and paranoia of the time. The novel was not an initial success, but sales picked up as the arms’ race intensified. The story is sometimes studied under the backdrop of the Cold War.
Lord of the Flies was Golding’s first and greatest success. He was able to retire from teaching and devote all his time to writing. He was unable to recreate the success of Lord of the Flies. However, he remains a respected writer that was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983.