I love to read and most of the time, I stick with what I adore the most: romance. However, when I was thirteen, I decided to turn my attention to classic literature. From 9th grade to graduation from high school, I devoured every book my sister and brother-in-law (both at least 8 years older than me) had been forced to read for English.
As a result, I read Tess of the d’Ubervilles, To Kill A Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, and a cold war novel I can’t recall at the moment. And really, To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my all-time favorite works of literature. I guess because I saw myself a little as Scout with a younger brother, but that isn’t what book I’ve chosen to talk about today. No, there was one other book I read as a teenager that had a huge impact on me and still does.
I first read Lord of the Flies for my senior English class. I had a well-developed love for the written word by then and enjoyed reading. Unfortunately, our teachers were so focused on making us read that they spent little time on making us write, but in this one instance, the class was required to write an essay based on Lord of the Flies. Talk about intimidating! I would be attending college in less than five months and I was writing my first essay now? Thanks a lot. And to toss a book at me as well? Sheesh.
But the minute I cracked the spine on my tattered copy of Lord of the Flies, inherited from my older sister, I was caught. The story of Ralph, Jack and Piggy captured my imagination. I suppose all “natural born” writers are people watchers. We can’t help ourselves. By the way, that’s probably a great way to tag a writer. If they spend more time just sitting back and watching the world around them with a thoughtful expression, they’re either plotting a story or trying to figure out what that person is doing and why. Oh, why, why, why? Why do we do what we do? Why is that person walking with a limp? The list goes on and on and that’s why writers are people watchers.
Lord of the Flies dumps the reader right into chaos where the rules of society, the great unspoken things we know are taboo and try to avoid are thrown out the window. Rules don’t matter when you’re stranded, do they? Who’s going to enforce them? When you strip down the civilized human to animal instinct, it’s amazing what comes out. At least that’s what my seventeen-year-old mind was fascinated by. Were humans really so close to their animal sides? Was it just the powers that be keeping us from becoming uncivilized beasts satisfying our id?
This book inspired me to want to become a psychologist, to study the human brain even more.
Yeah, that didn’t happen, by the way. As with the human condition, put a sheltered teenager in a college setting, give them the legal right to drink and they turn into a party animal. So yeah, I guess our animals are closer to the surface than we as a civilization would like to think. However, I did get a degree in History, which is another type of study of the human condition, isn’t it? I’m still fascinated by the way people think and react and try to incorporate the lessons learned from reading books like Lord of the Flies into my work. Not in the same way, but as a way to demonstrate why people do the crazy things they do.
It also didn’t hurt that I’d watched the movie a few years before and had a horrible crush on Balthazar Getty. Rar. And no, it wasn’t disgusting because he’s actually a year older than I am 😛 And he grew up real nice.