Reading in context

When I was in my last year of high school we read William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. I reacted violently to this book. I didn’t hate the way it was written, the plot, character development, setting or anything like that. What I didn’t like was what it was about.

At the time my younger brother was the same age as the boys in Lord of the Flies, and his name was/is Simon (one of the main characters in the story). As a 16 year old, I refused to believe that the events of the story could happen; that is, I didn’t want to believe them. I didn’t want to believe that a group of boys could behave with such savagery. I had nightmares about my brother being stranded on the island as well as the fact that such young children could lose their humanity and, in hindsight, their innocence in this kind of environment.

What made me remember Lord of the Flies was the book that I read last Friday night. This was Suzanne Collins’ YA novel The Hunger Games :

In the ruins of the place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to death before – and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

The Hunger Games, the first book in the series, is challenging and definitely not for the faint-hearted.

It is quite simply one of the best books I have read all year and certainly the best YA novel I have read for a long time.

It is equally as horrifying in content to the Lord of the Flies and in particular the way that the teenagers are forced to kill or be killed in a constructed environment by the Capitol’s gamekeepers; the Hunger Games being the punishment imposed upon the 12 districts subsequent to their defeat after an uprising against the central government.

It was thinking about children being forced into violent acts of survival through environment, which made me remember Lord of the Flies and my reaction to it. The similarities of both books in turn made me realise that what had changed about my response, besides my own maturity, was as a result of the context of the world in which I now live. Let’s face it – and trying not to be overly simplistic or dramatic – it’s a pretty scary world that we live in sometimes and quite frankly some of the ‘fiction’ I read which is set in the future becomes more and more conceivable every day.

Having said all this, it’s funny really, because even though I and the world around me has changed to the extent that the Lord of the Flies might be more ‘believable’ to me, I know that even after nearly 20 years there is no way in hell I could ever read it again.

About Kris

Reads, rants, randoms & R+s. You've been warned. BTW, don't follow me if you're a GLBTQQphobic wanker. It won't end well. For you.
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