William Golding’s classic tale about a group of English schoolboys who are plane-wrecked on a deserted island is just as chilling and relevant today as when it was first published in 1954. At first, the stranded boys cooperate, attempting to gather food, make shelters, and maintain signal fires. Overseeing their efforts are Ralph, “the boy with fair hair,” and Piggy, Ralph’s chubby, wisdom-dispensing sidekick whose thick spectacles come in handy for lighting fires. Although Ralph tries to impose order and delegate responsibility, there are many in their number who would rather swim, play, or hunt the island’s wild pig population. Soon Ralph’s rules are being ignored or challenged outright. His fiercest antagonist is Jack, the redheaded leader of the pig hunters, who manages to lure away many of the boys to join his band of painted savages. The situation deteriorates as the trappings of civilization continue to fall away, until Ralph discovers that instead of being hunters, he and Piggy have become the hunted: “He forgot his words, his hunger and thirst, and became fear; hopeless fear on flying feet.” Golding’s gripping novel explores the boundary between human reason and animal instinct, all on the brutal playing field of adolescent competition.
What does school really teach our children? I struggle with this issue daily as I send my boys off to school only to retrieve them hours later and listen to their tales of grief, bullying, and abuse. Not exactly the value system I envisioned for my children. But it was clearly Golding’s vision in Lord of the Flies. My son, like Piggy, has “become fear”; he endures a special kind of hell in his classroom and on the playground. He is told he has a “voice” but when he speaks no one listens. The pig hunters operate in full force as they lure away the popular boys to join their “band of painted savages.” When my son is brutalized no one rescues him. No one sees him. No one cares. Recently, when he reported some punk in his class slammed his head into a wall, the principal did nothing. Meanwhile, my son convulsed into seizures. When my son advised a week later that this same creep tried to choke him with a string, no one took action. The bully was not suspended, reprimanded or even expelled. The school did not even summon the police.
Lord of the Flies is another term for the Devil. The island depicted in Golding’s book is my child’s classroom and sadly he is not alone. Unfortunately, we only hear about the tragedies, the children like Asher Brown who commit suicide because they have no advocates on that island. Brown was bullied to death. His school staff destroyed videos and other evidence of brutality. Brown’s father who, like me, spoke with staff about his concerns, whose son, like mine, made written and oral complaints, received no relief. Brown’s father followed protocol. He believed, like I did, that there was a “system”, that responsible adults would be horrified at the news that a bully roamed among them. But what we both learned is that there is no “system”, no “rules of engagement”. No one made Brown safe. No one has made my child safe. Brown’s perpetrator was “punished” by being forced to miss one football game! My son’s bully continues to harass, threaten and assault my son in plain view with no repercussions.