Ladies of the Flies

By Lily Bourne

A classic sophomore year novel, Lord of the Flies details the stories of a group of English schoolboys stranded on a deserted island. While originally peaceful, the young boys quickly descend into savagery and brutality. This story serves as commentary on the innate evil of humankind and the quickness with which we depart from civility when in danger. However, it is important to realize the specific group of kids that William Golding wrote this novel about: boys. Golding himself stated that “if you land with a group of little boys, they are more like a scaled-down society than a group of little girls would be.” Perhaps Golding shares the opinion of some others: if girls had crashed on that island instead of boys, the levels of chaos and violence in Lord of the Flies would have never occurred. 

Now, this is not to say that girls are better than boys, just that they tend to be less inclined to violence and inhumanity. Studies have proved this numerous times, though reasoning for this difference varies. Some argue that testosterone in the amygdala – where emotions are processed – causes biological males to be more aggressive from a young age. Others claim that this aggression is more a product of nurture rather than nature, claiming parents tend to accept anger and tantrums from male children more than females. While physical aggression is about equal in boys and girls for the first two to four years of their lives, female aggression declines much faster after those years, while boys are around 75% more likely to commit acts of physical aggression by age 11. Whatever the reason, it is scientifically proven that boys are more inclined to violence and aggression once they reach the age that the poor schoolboys in Lord of the Flies were. 

An interesting addition to this argument comes in the form of a social experiment done in 2002. Channel 4 released a docuseries titled “Boys and Girls Alone” in which they left 10 boys and 10 girls alone in separate houses for five days. With cameras placed all around the house, it was almost comical how quickly a difference could be found between the boys and girls. When arriving at the house, the boys immediately began trashing the house, destroying furniture and throwing food. Their meals consisted mostly of sugar and sodas. Almost uncannily like Lord of the Flies, the boys had formed two separate gangs by the third day and had chosen a boy named Michael to pick on, going as far as tying him to a chair and whacking him with various objects. Not incredibly surprising, the girls had a very different experience. They gathered at the table for dinner, had separate jobs assigned for cooking and cleaning, created a chore chart, and hosted different activities throughout the five days. Fashion shows, cupcake baking, and rational compromises were a far stretch from the boys’ gangs. Obviously, Lord of the Flies is a fictional book with a specific message to convey, and is not necessarily based on scientific fact. However, it is interesting to note the almost scary similarities between the story and a real life experiment, and what they may mean for society. Perhaps this is a message to re-examine the way we treat male aggression at a young age, and the standards we push onto young girls regarding taking care of the home. Either way, in a theoretical world, it seems like maybe Lord of the Flies would have less death and more chore charts if an all-girls school crashed instead.