Ban ‘Lord of the Flies’? In the age of Donald Trump, it’s required reading – Toronto Star

In this Jan. 6, 2021 photo, supporters of then-president Donald Trump climb the west wall of the the U.S. Capitol in Washington. It’s exactly moment likes this that make ‘Lord of the Flies’ a must read, Heather Mallick writes.

By Heather MallickStar Columnist

Sat., Oct. 30, 20214 min. read

“Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!”

It’s a shame that many Ottawa high school students will no longer be able to read murderous quotes like that from the very instructive “Lord of the Flies” in class.

Kyla Gibson, a student, wrote in her high school paper, The Lisgarwrite, that William Golding’s 1954 novel about white boys stranded on an island turning savage and killing their own, did not reflect what she as “a Black, Jewish, feminist and social justice activist” wished to read.

“I do not need to learn about … how these boys cannot act in a civilized manner to protect one another without desiring power, hierarchy and having a thirst for blood.” And the Ottawa-Carleton school board listened, as have others, banning Golding’s novel and other novels too.

Breathes there a high school student that doesn’t feel that the world should reflect her personally? It’s part of the maddening sweetness of the teenagers we all were once.

The student didn’t like memorizing Orwell either. But memorization is a gift. As climate change advances, it will give people something to do as they wait in cooling centres or sinkholes or planes stuck in melted tarmac.

I recite F. Scott Fitzgerald (“I left my capacity for hoping on the little roads that led to Zelda’s sanitarium”). She of course may only have “Do it to Julia! Not me!” or a description of George Orwell eating boiled cod with turnips and enjoying it out of socialist idealism.

I fear for students like her. The novel is at base about bullying. A plane full of children crashes on a tropical island. Their means of survival is a plot that will be re-enacted in every workplace, social justice enclave, airplane flight and Green party meeting she will ever encounter.

What she seeks, she wrote, is “to learn about why it is important to protect one another and to be allies to those who are less privileged.” But this was precisely what “Lord of the Flies” revealed.

If she wants to read about groups cohering peacefully, in other words novels without plots, the Peppa Pig stories are a go-to. Or those terrific Sally Rooneys about smart women dating inert men. Or Nigel Slater’s “Real Fast Puddings.” Then there’s Margaret Atwood’s “Cat’s Eye” about girl-on-girl terror.

So it’s back to Peppa, really.

I can’t see how she missed the novel’s slide into group madness led by frat-boy Jack and the killing of Simon and his fat, asthmatic, bullied friend Piggy. But then I frequently finish murder mysteries and have no idea who the killer was.

As she wrote, Golding’s boys were all white so perhaps they seemed much of a muchness, fair enough, but blood is blood and by the end Simon and Piggy were simply covered in it, so there’s a plot flag right there.

Every class has such students; what troubles me are the adults who don’t worry about them. Rather they cater to them, a mistake because we’re all living a Lord of the Flies moment.

The Trump years ended with the portly post-president gleefully presiding over the Capitol assault on Jan. 6, a truly rancid Lord of the Flies gang crawling and battering their way into the building.

Think back to Sep. 11, 2001 and the 40 passengers and crew of Fight 93 who realized their hijacked plane was likely aimed at Washington’s Capitol. A random group of people — various Todds, Jeremys, Sandras and Marks — decided to protect the Capitol, seat of the very chambers that 20 years later, a different kind of American would casually invade, hijack and terrorize.

On Flight 93, passengers teamed up and attacked the cockpit, knowing they would all die in minutes. The terrorists, unable to shake them off, flew the plane into the ground, vaporizing everyone.

In today’s Lord of the Flies, which gang would make the better novel, the Saudi terrorists, the American terrorists, or the American passengers? Does modernity make any difference?

We are at this impasse now too. Think of the loud, violent gangs at Trudeau rallies this fall, the shaggy marches of the unmasked and unvaccinated in Toronto, and the hollowing of the Toronto transit system left unsupervised and a magnet for angry unmasked people.

Look at Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, bullied by his doctrinaire MPs and afraid to tell them to get vaccinated. O’Toole resembles Piggy. I wonder if he knows this.

The Ottawa student wants to study different tales in school, chosen not for their brilliance but for their newness and the diversity of their characters but it puzzles me that she hasn’t suggested anything.

It has been said that there are only seven basic plots: Overcoming the Monster; Rags to Riches; The Quest; Voyage and Return; Rebirth; Comedy; and Tragedy. Lord of the Flies is the first, its plot eternal. We have many lords, many flies, in our future.

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