Written by Tracy Lawson.
Lord of the Flies (1954) and Gone (2008) share a common theme: that the human impulse toward civilization is not as deeply rooted as the human impulse toward savagery. Both novels explore what happens when children are left without any adult supervision.
In Lord of the Flies, a planeload of English schoolboys crashes on an uninhabited tropical island. All the adults are killed in the crash, and the boys attempt to govern themselves while they wait for rescue.
In Gone, everyone fifteen and older in Perdido Beach, California mysteriously vanishes one morning, leaving the young teens, children, and babies trapped inside a mysterious, impenetrable force field with no adult supervision, no working technology, and no way to get help.
In my last post, I suggested that teens that had read Matched by Ally Condie would be familiar with the themes of censorship and oppressive societal organization, and therefore well-prepared to recognize those themes in classic dystopian novels like Fahrenheit 451.
Gone is more than just a warm-up read to prepare for the themes in Lord of the Flies. A Voice of Youth Advocates review of Gone suggested “if Stephen King had written Lord of the Flies, it might have been a little like this.” Be warned. Gone is scary. Gone has its tender moments and the occasional laugh, but it’s every bit as scary as Lord of the Flies—and perhaps more so, as today’s teens would be more likely to identify with Sam, the reluctant leader who teams up with Astrid, the brainy and unattainable girl in his class at school, than they would with Ralph, Piggy, Jack and the other prep school boys who are stranded on the island.
Lord of the Flies uses the children’s fear of the Beast, a supernatural being that they believe haunts the island, as a metaphor for the evil that lurks within each of us, but the supernatural force in Gone is not merely symbolic. Perdido Beach was struck by an asteroid fifteen years before, and now freaky things are happening. Some of the characters develop unusual powers, and are hunted, used, and persecuted for their dangerous, deadly talents.
The boys in Lord of the Flies immediately set up a hierarchy—they elect Ralph leader, and place Jack in charge of hunting and keeping the signal fire going. The older boys fail to keep watch over the youngest children, the “littleuns,” who run naked and wild through the woods. The hunters let the signal fire go out and miss an opportunity for rescue. Soon most of the boys shirk their responsibilities, revert to superstition and ritual, and lose their civilized selves.
They eventually revert to their basest selves, and, in a moment of superstitious terror, murder their classmate, Simon, by tearing him to pieces with their hands and teeth. Even Ralph, who has struggled to maintain their civilization, takes part in the ritual killing of Simon, who was goodness and innocence, now lost.
The kids in Gone are stranded in their home town, but still flounder without the technology and the authority figures that defined and controlled their society. They push Sam to be their leader, and right away Sam realizes he’ll have trouble from a group of bullies. The teens set up a plan for caring for the youngest children (called the prees) and distributing food. Astrid wonders why they see no soldiers, or scientists, or news crews on the other side of the barrier.
Many of the girls in Perdido Beach assume the roles of healer, mother, teacher, and even love interest— perhaps that is why their society functions longer, and at a higher level, than the one in Lord of the Flies. But the girls are not all stuck in traditional roles—some of them are spies and warriors, too, when the time comes.
Astrid’s autistic brother, Little Pete, lives in his own world, though Astrid is able to reach him sometimes, through rituals they developed during their life with their parents. Little Pete is a symbol of innocence, yet he wields a power that might just eclipse all the others’.
Soon another threat becomes apparent. The rich kids from Coates Academy, the private school on the hill, roll in to town in a convoy of expensive cars. They say they want to team up with the Perdido Beach kids until help arrives, but that turns out to be far from the truth.
In both Lord of the Flies and Gone, the antagonists are bullies whose attacks escalate until very few remain strong enough to resist them, and the final conflicts are battles to the death.
The naval officers who rescue Ralph and the other survivors in Lord of the Flies are symbols of civilization, of good. They cannot be blamed for abandoning the boys.
The adults in Gone have all vanished. Where are they? Have they died? If not, could they help what happened to them? The children wish to be reunited with their family members, but they also fear the unknown. As Sam nears his own 15th birthday, he learns that adults are not all-knowing, and are not to be blindly trusted.
Lord of the Flies is complete in one volume, but Gone is the first in a series of five novels, so be forewarned–you must read on to learn what happens to Sam, Astrid, and the others.
I found my husband’s bookmark in my copy of Gone this morning, and I remembered that he’d stopped reading the book because it upset him too much. I think he could’ve powered through and enjoyed it. I hope he’ll try again.
Tracy’s original post can be read here.
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