There are a number of thoughts out there about the differences between Lord of the Flies by William Golding and The Coral Island by RM Ballantyne. Some of the analyses even include Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. I personally don’t believe that Robinson Crusoe belongs with the other two books because the differing circumstances. Robinson Crusoe’s is one man’s journey to survive, alone, on a forsaken island. Both Lord of the Flies and The Coral Island involve more than one person and, as a result, include the social interaction that goes with that.
I read Lord of the Flies for the first time as a set book in high school. The primary story involves the wreckage of a British aeroplane full of school children who are being evacuated during a war. The only survivors are boys from the ages of about six to twelve years old.
This book held a horrific fascination for me as I got to know the primary “good” characters: Piggy, the fat boy with glasses and a great intellect; Ralph, fair-haired and good looking and quiet and dreamy Simon who is not strong and faints frequently. The primary “bad” character is the dictatorial and wild Jack who turns his choir into a band of hunters.
While Ralph tries to establish some sort of order and organise the younger children to a certain extent, his relaxed approach results in the boys gradually eroding the boundaries set by their previous lives. The hunting process adds to this gradual breaking down of the veneer of civilization and the boys ultimately descend into total savagery. This is a story of the negative and dark side of a pack of boys cut off from discipline, authority figures and civilization.
The Coral Island, on the other hand, is the noble tale of three boys, shipwrecked on an island, who manage to make the best of their circumstances. They build a respectable shelter and learn to hunt, cook food and utilize learned knowledge to its best effect. There is a strong religious undertone to this book and the boys remain strong in their Faith throughout their adventures.
The boys have an encounter with cannibals and eventually see Christianity being brought to the cannibals community and exerting a positive influence over this particular aspect of their lives. One of the boys, Ralph, is kidnapped by pirates and he has an uplifting effect on the Captain and one of his men who ultimately repents of his life of murder and sin on his deathbed.
The subject matter of The Coral Island is to depict how fine men, who retain their religious and moral fiber in difficult circumstances and retain a comradeship and respect for each other, can be hugely successful in a difficult situation. The principles of discipline, respect and leadership are emphasized.
While The Coral Island does include the theme of colonialism and may not be to everyone’s taste, I far preferred it to Lord of the Flies, which denotes that in adverse circumstances the evil in a boy will prevail over all other teachings. I prefer to see the potential good in people and situations.
Have you read either of these books? What are your thoughts?
Have a great weekend.