Lord of the Flies Historical Context 🏝️

Written in 1953 in the wake of the Second World War, Lord of the Flies is often referred to as a book of ideas.

Lord of the Flies

William Golding

It is often considered an allegory for the innate evil contained within mankind and how humanity is constrained from savage behaviour by the fragile concept of society. Like all enduring novels, there are many potential readings to the book. Some have suggested it is a retelling of the Garden of Eden story with mankind responsible for the destruction of paradise.

Lord of the Flies Historical Context

One thing is clear, Golding’s own experiences heavily shaped the book. William Golding reports having dark thoughts as a child and, by his own admission, acted like a bully during his school years. He was affected profoundly by his own service in the Navy and said the war “really changed his view of what people were capable of, and therefore what human nature was.”

Publication and Legacy

In many ways, the story of ‘Lord of the Flies rise to prominence is one of the rags to riches. It was initially rejected for publication and labelled as dull and uninspiring. It was originally titled ‘Strangers from Within‘ and even the title was derided as being too obvious and lacking subtlety.

In September 1954, the novel was eventually published, but it was not an immediate hit. With time, it began to gain traction. Later that year, it was dubbed “novel of the year” by E. M Forster. Perhaps, the issue was a common dismissal of the novel as a typical adventure story—a bygone story from a different era. Of course, in many ways, it was anything but breaking heavily from typical conventions of the adventure tales and Bildungsroman of the past.

It seems that the book’s legacy has grown with time, and it’s slowly become more influential. Now, it is unthinkable to pull up an article of “100 books to read before you die” and not see Golding’s classic sitting on the list, but, interestingly, that was not always the case.

It receives plenty of attention in the contemporary world as students of literature readily study it. Its symbolism and allegorical content make it the perfect fodder for such an exercise. However, some of the themes that Golding explores make it contentious. For instance, the suggestion that savagery and tribal behaviours are synonymous is a very dated mindset and one that needs teaching sensitively and with a good understanding of context.


Perhaps, the biggest indicator of the legacy of Golding’s classic is the fact that it has been so widely adapted. There are several stage versions, and to date, two movie versions exist. Both of the movie adaptations are several years old, and one is in black and white. Things have changed a lot in the past thirty years and reframing the novel in a modern context with relatable dialogue might help to bring the novel to a new audience.


What historical context influenced the writing of Lord of the Flies?

World War II was one of the biggest influences on ‘Lord of the Flies. Additionally, Golding was influenced by his time as a teacher and his time in the Navy.

Why was Lord of the Flies banned?

Lord of the Flies‘ was banned for its use of language and references to sex and death. The broader dark imagery also led to its removal from, or lack of inclusion in, school curriculums.

What war is Lord of the Flies in?

Lord of the Flies‘ is in World War II. Although the war is not a continual, clear influence on the characters, the darkness of the war and the clashing ideologies were critical parts of the novel.

Lee-James Bovey
About Lee-James Bovey
Lee-James, a.k.a. LJ, has been a Book Analysis team member since it was first created. During the day, he's an English Teacher. During the night, he provides in-depth analysis and summary of books.
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