Censorship: An Overview and Analysis of Lord of the Flies
Censorship involves suppression of intellectual freedom and free speech based on the notion that a work, piece of art or literary masterpiece violates some social or moral order. Lord of the Flies is an example of a literary work that has been censored and that has caused controversy in society for many reasons over time. Lord of the Flies like many other works including Huckleberry Finn has been banned in many states, libraries and cities throughout time at one point or another for a variety of reasons. The causes of censorship and the reasons for censorship in Lord of the Flies in particular are discussed below.
Overview of Censorship
Censorship has been defined as many things, including restrictive, abrasive and simply wrong. Many people in the United States feel that censorship restricts their right to free speech as guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Authors and literary agents would argue that censorship violates a person's right to "intellectual freedom."
Intellectual freedom is the opposite end of the pole from censorship. Intellectual freedom is supposedly a right guaranteed to all citizens living in the United States to express their ideas, opinions and beliefs on paper or otherwise. According the ALA, intellectual freedom defined is the "right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points-of-view without restriction" (ALA, 2004). Along with this freedom should come the right to freely express one's ideas and all sides of a question or issue. Generally restricted access to free though and free speech is considered a dangerous avenues and one that is generally un-American (Douglas, 1953).
Censorship in essence is man's way of preventing thoughts and ideas from flowing. It is a highly arguable practice, very controversial and dangerous when it comes to the world of literature. Censorship simply defined by the International Encyclopedia of Social Sciences is considered a "policy of restricting the public expression of ideas, opinions, conceptions and impulses, which have or are believed to have the capacity to undermine the governing authority or the social and moral order which that authority considers it bound to protect" (Abraham, 1967:357).
Generally censorship inhibits free speech and information sharing. More often than not censorship occurs within the realm of books, as is the case with Lord of the Flies and other controversial works throughout time. Some other books that have been widely publicized and censored include The Catcher in the Rye, Huckleberry Finn and the Grapes of Wrath, all considered literary classics.
Generally the reasons for censorship vary, but include citations of violence or themes that go against what some consider moral and appropriate to modern society. Some works such as Huckleberry Finn have been censored because they were believed to be racist in nature, which goes against traditionally moral thinking and norms.
Many people believe that censorship is simply a problem of the past. Censorship is not something of the past. During the 1990s in fact censorship was very much a problem in modern day society, and continues to be so today.
In early American History particularly in the 1950s a great list of literary works and other arts were blacklisted and censored because of material that was considered too extreme and offensive to societal norms (Dubin, 1992). Today the same thing is happening in schools and libraries, only it isn't as well publicized as in times of old.
Censorship and Lord of the Flies
The novel Lord of the Flies by Wilson Golding was first published in 1954. The work tells the tale of a group of boys who are stranded on a deserted island. The island was large and the boys found it easy to get lost on the island. The boys are stranded when there plane crashes. One of the boys emerges as leader, named Ralph. He suggests that the boys make a fire to signal a rescue plane but his plans fail.
Generally the boys live life well by simply hanging out during the day. Generally however things take a turn for the worst when food becomes scarce and they end up fighting among themselves. One of the boys in the book named Piggy is killed. Eventually Ralph is able to rescue the boys when he finds a plane has landed on a beach at the other end of the forest.
The story focuses on Ralph's struggles and growth during the novel. Among the themes of the book include the notion that evil is a necessary part of human nature. The themes include the end of innocence, proclaimed by Ralph himself on page 84 when Golding writes regarding Piggy's death "Ralph wept for the end of innocence."
Censorship is not a foreign concept in the world of literature. In fact, for centuries books have been banned at various points of society. There are many circumstances under which books might be banned. Censorship actually happens even in modern times. Censorship is generally inspired for a variety of reasons. In the case of the Lord of the Flies censorship is usually cited based on the notion that the book is violent and oppressive, goes against religious ideals and expresses the notion that man is by nature evil and savage.
Lord of the Flies was also considered "demoralizing in as much as it implies that a man is little more than an animal" according to parents challenging the book in Dallas Teas in an independent high school district (Abula, 1996).
There are those that argue that kids should be able to discern the difference between fantasy and reality, thus it is difficult to justify censorship (Platt, 2001). In the case of Lord of the Flies, children reading it should be able to tell the difference between reality and fiction.
People are constantly arguing however to define who needs protection from what and whether government bureaucracies or "appeals to morality" should settle the question of censorship (Platt, 2001). Generally censorship results in high costs to society and youths alike. According to one commentary, "we ought to be sure that real, not just symbolic harm results from youthful pursuit of disapproved pleasures and messages before mandating indecency laws and other restrictive regimes" (Platt, 2001:45).
For many censorship is considered simply bias, a move by those who are disinterested in the idea of freedom of expression (Borchgrave, 2003). Censorship has in fact been supported and implemented by many agencies, publishers, libraries, states and even the federal government at one time or another (Borchgrave, 2003). Generally censorship falls under the category of bias and personal opinion however.
There are religious themes present in Golding's work that may have inspired outrage by some censorship fans. In Chapters 1 and 2 the book discusses the boy's choir and suggests that they are almost angelic in nature. However later in the book when the boys are stranded the boy who was actually choirmaster, Jack, ends up becoming a chief hunter and one of the primary people responsible for the untimely death of Piggy. The boys are subjected to many primal urges throughout the novel.
However there are some characters that generally demonstrate a sense of righteousness throughout the novel, including Simon who helps feed the hungry young boys on the island. Simon generally is the one person in the Lord of the Flies that always appears as someone ready to help in times of need or crisis. This is evidenced for example in Chapter 3 when Piggy's glasses are knocked off by Jack and Simon retrieves them (BookRags, 2004). His behavior is generally characterized as selfless from the book, and his words generally portray in image of innocence throughout the book.
In chapter 5 Simon goes on to say regarding the beast in the work that perhaps the beast is only within the boys, stating "maybe it's only us" suggesting that he is more perceptive than the rest of the boys with regard to the evil inherent in human nature as the books suggests (BookRags, 2004). Some might argue that censorship of Lord of the Flies shouldn't be supported because it shows not only violence but also the innocence of youth, as present in Ralph. Thus it shows both sides of the issue.
Golding perhaps intended the book to be a mini version or model of the world in general, a mini version if you will of the way the world is structured. Because it suggests that the world may be inherently violent and unpleasant, it has caused much outrage. Golding in his work attempts to trace the faults of society, laying them into individual people instead of the world at large (Tripod, 2003).
He further suggests that every person has evil within their inner nature and when society is taken away that evil nature tends to come out in the form of chaos and lawlessness (Tripod, 2003). Golding also suggests that every person is capable of committing some sort of crime, which he demonstrates by Jack's savagery in the work. The only…