Sparknotes Videos & Lord of the Flies

I discovered Sparknotes’s summary videos yesterday. They summarize and explain the classics in a video that looks like a slideshow of comics. This one is for Lord of the Flies, for example.


They’re cool, there are ones for The Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Of Mice and Men, 1984 etc… They’re all 10 minutes or shorter. I’ve just finished reading Lord of the Flies, but watching the video, I noticed how much of the foreshadowing and symbolism I’ve missed.

The Sparknotes video for Lord of the Flies starts with the sentence “Lord of the Flies is about savagery”. As I said before, the book is laden with symbolism. It’s about a group of British boys who try to establish law and order after they land on an uninhabited island, but it all goes wrong and they almost all turn to savages, killing two among their numbers. An American friend who’s doing a comparative study of Britain and Germany in ethnopolitics once told me the British have traditionally been obsessed with orderliness. At the end of the book, a British ship comes to rescue them and the navy officer who talks to them says “I should have thought that a pack of British boys – you’re all British, aren’t you? – would have been able to put up a better show than that” (p. 224) and this touches the protagonist so deeply that for the first time since they landed on the island he cannot control his tears, starts sobbing loudly. All the others join him.

In some respects it’s similar to The Animal Farm – exploring how political power transforms people. Of course it also reminded me of that Tom Hanks movie Cast Away. It was a good read, though I needed some time to get used to the style. William Golding has a peculiar way of narrating; he chooses the words very carefully:

“Now tell us. What’s your name?”

“Percival Wemys Madison, The Vicarage, Harcourt St. Anthony, Hants, telephone, telephone, tele-”

As if this information was rooted far down in the springs of sorrow, the littlun wept. […]

“Shut up, you! Shut up!”

Percival Wemys Madison would not shut up. A spring had been tapped, far beyond the reach of authority or even physical intimidation. The crying went on, breath after breath, and seemed to sustain him upright as if he were nailed to it (p. 93)

“I’m going up the mountain to look for the beast – now.”

Then the supreme sting, the casual, bitter word.


At that word the other boys forgot their urge to be gone and turned back to sample this fresh rub of two spirits in the dark. The word was too good, too bitter, too successfully daunting to be repeated. It took Ralph at low water when his nerve was relaxed for the return to the shelter and the still, friendly waters of the lagoon (p. 131).

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