Teach "Lord of the Flies," Warts and All

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Aug. 17 2009 6:22 PM

Teach "Lord of the Flies," Warts and All

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Kim, I disagree about the worthiness of Lord of the Flies . "Anticlimactic ending"? Surely you’re not talking about (SPOILER ALERT for anyone whose middle school curriculum somehow failed to include this book) the death of Piggy? Reading that scene in seventh grade was the first time I remember being truly moved by literature. It was during silent reading, and Miss Newman, our English teacher, had put on the Enya CD that was our silent reading soundtrack. When I reached that moment, I felt my face get hot and red. I was frantic. I looked around the room and locked eyes with Miss Newman, who walked over, crouched beside my desk, and mouthed "Piggy?" More than a few times, I’ve bonded with others (Miss Newman included) over how hard that death hit us.

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I hardly think a book so moving for readers of a particular age, and with themes that resurface so consistently, should be yanked from syllabi-whether because the tribal chanting seemed excessive to you, Kim, or because of author William Golding’s sexual history. This is not to say that Golding’s behavior is irrelevant. But should teachers like Miss Newman mention it when they teach the book to preteens? Personally, I hope that teachers do include Golding’s history-even the sexy parts-in their classroom discussions. Students should learn to see authors (and artists, and directors) as flawed, complex people whose own narratives shape the work they produce. What better way to inspire them to write what they know, a trope that I think works wonders, than to show the way that other authors have done the same? And as interested as I am in what all of us think about whether Golding’s sexual past tars his writing, I’m far more eager to hear what a room full of 7 th graders thinks.

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