Volunteer Andrea blogs about a disturbing similarity between Stephen King’s The Shining and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.
The Shining is the scariest book that I have ever read, and I’ve read it 2.1767 times. On the third attempt, I made it to page 79 and was TOO CREEPED OUT! At that last attempt, I remembered that getting over a new reading of The Shining takes me four years. Apparently, I don’t want to spent four new years on midnight bathroom visits that include opening the shower curtain and avoiding looking in the mirror. I had tried to read The Shining as a writer, but I was not up to the task. I put the book aside.
That was nine months ago. Fast forward to last week, and near the end of Lord of the Flies, I was surprised to find a fear like the one induced by The Shining prickling my brain. Just like with The Shining, I’ve read Lord of the Flies twice before. This time, that latter novel was more disturbing to me than ever, but I had to pause to figure out why a certain section of Lord of the Flies caused my subconscious to dredge up memories of the dreaded The Shining.
Toward the end of Lord of the Flies, a quiet boy, Simon, “cracks” according to the other characters in the story. The Lord of the Flies (a pig’s head on a stick) is Simon’s sole focus at that point in the story.
“There isn’t anyone to help you. Only me. And I’m the Beast.”
Simon’s mouth labored, brought forth audible words.
“Pig’s head on a stick.”
“Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill!” said the head. For a moment or two the forest and all the other dimly appreciated places echoed with the parody of laughter. “You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are what they are?’
The laughter shivered again.
In The Shining, Jack Torrance also cracks. The ghostly Overlook bartender, Grady, is the mouthpiece for Jack’s subconscious or the evil in the house (you choose), which metamorphoses into a greater force that doesn’t need ghost lips.
“I’ll do what I have to do. Just let me out.”
“You’ll give your word on it, sir?” Grady persisted.
“My word, my promise, my sacred vow, whatever in hell you want. if you—“
There was a flat snap as the bolt was drawn back. The door shivered open a quarter of an inch. Jack’s words and breath halted. For a moment he felt that death itself was outside that door.
The feeling passed…
Then a voice, much deeper and much more powerful than Grady’s, spoke from somewhere, everywhere…from inside him.
(Keep your promise, Mr. Torrance.)
So, why did Lord of the Flies remind me of The Shining? The voice of evil rang clear in both books. This voice speaks to a reader in many novels and comes in many guises, but so rarely have I felt that two very different authors use such similar voices to express the evil in the hearts of men. Pure evil, so often a caricature, instead chills the spine in these two books where psychological episodes are the last dominoes to fall in a narrative that leads to death.
And out of this chill, I have a hope – that I can see beyond the words on the page to the narrative structures and writing styles that intrigue me. Perhaps I can pick up The Shining again soon and this time finish it without another four years of checking behind the shower curtain and avoiding reflections cast in midnight mirrors.