An ADHD-Perspective Book Review

Lord of the Flies | William Golding

A haunting tale of human darkness


A paperback copy of Lord of the Flies on a dark background between a pair of glasses and a large conch.
Image by the author

This is a NON-SPOILER review.

This “twentieth-century classic", as stated on the cover, is a brilliantly told story about human nature. Or, of one, rather bleak perspective on it.

A group of young boys, stranded on a desert island, is left to fend for themselves. Where will the plot go from here? In a series of chilling curves, the book sets out to explore human nature versus culture. Golding’s conclusion is grim and may partly be traceable to his own life, fighting his personal demons. On a more general level, the book was published in 1954, soon after the world has experienced World War II. While his view itself may be disputed, there is no denying Golding puts forth a remarkable presentation of this outlook.

Some of the human traits explored are often connected to ADHD, such as impulsivity, lack of control, challenging authority and leadership. The potential danger they pose does not come as a huge surprise to anyone closely familiar with ADHD, though they are examined here as collective human traits, or at least, attributable to most. The basic question remains: can anyone bearing these traits overcome them, or are they doomed to follow their nature? To what extent?

I find this comparison fascinating because in real life, those of us with ADHD sometimes find that relieving cultural constraints actually diminishes the risk factor of these traits. For instance, replacing the standard demands of school environment with individual ones in homeschooling, or initiating a self-dependent entrepreneurship, might alleviate many of the hardships brought about by trying to fit our self-round peg into a square social hole.

This understanding might shift the discussion from the impact of our own nature to that of the others, on which we depend for our existence. In the book, these would be the other boys on the island. Indeed, the concept of “otherness” is another dominant one in the book, in this and other respects.

Reading this book was quite an intense experience which had an effect on my mental well-being. While the book was too good to give up, I simply picked up another book — a warm, uplifting fantasy — to read simultaneously and balance my impressions. My recommendation? — Make sure you are immune to dark reads, or else, choose a resilient time for approaching this book. Or, do as I did and accompany this reading with another, lighter book!

While the story is highly disturbing, the reading itself easily flows thanks to Golding’s tight, poignant writing style. The characters are sketched as if in exquisite line art, breathing distinctiveness into the main ones despite the short length of the novel. Balancing the precise choice of words, almost like poetry, with the nerve-racking action and lively characters makes for a breathless read, in the best meaning possible. Thanks to this and the short length, this makes for a rather easy read, concentration-wise.

At a certain point I found myself confused by the introduction of multiple characters at the same time. However, this only occurs at a certain plot point and I can aid with a non-spoiler tip here: there is no need to remember all names. Pay special attention to the older boys who exhibit distinguishable characteristics.

I fully justify the designation of this book as a classic, and highly recommend it. For an extensive list of content warnings you can consult the book’s page on the website Does the Dog Die (contains spoilers). Generally speaking, this book isn’t for the faint of heart in terms of violence.

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