Lord of the Flies was first published in the early 1950s when the world was recovering from the devastation of World War II. The horror of Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini was still on everyone’s mind. At the same time, a significant event had recently happened — the detonation of two atom bombs over Japan. The people of the world were transfixed by the devastation. And then, in 1949, Russia revealed that it too had the atom bomb. The world suddenly had two superpowers threatening everyone with a nuclear holocaust.
William Golding started writing Lord of the Flies soon after this sequence of events. It was taken for granted that a nuclear war would soon erupt. One prediction for this event was 1964 –the theme of Nevil Shute’s novel On the Beach. Indeed, the fear of the atom bomb was clearly revealed in a series of movies released during the early 1950s. In the remake of H. G. W ells’ War of the Worlds, America attempts unsuccessfully to destroy the Martian invaders through the use of a nuclear weapon.
In Them, ants mutate into giants through contact with radiation and threaten all humanity. Tarantula has a similar plot while in The Incredible Shrinking Man — arguably the best movie of this genre– the hero shrinks to infinity after accidentally passing through a nuclear cloud while at sea on a yacht. These were the fears which were gripping the imagination at the time when William Golding was writing Lord of the Flies.
The story is set in the very near future, at a time when new but strange aircraft travelled the skies. In the plot, the next world war has indeed happened and the boys have had to be evacuated because of the nuclear threat to Britain. It is easy to conjure up yet another Hitler but in this case it’s in the shape of the tyrant, Jack. Golding shows what would happen within a small and closed community if such a tyrant were to succeed.