Another locked down break is nearly upon us and it’s time for some reading and watching advice from things which have caught my eye over the last couple of weeks. Many of you at some point will have read, I should imagine, William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies. He had it rejected by a number of publishers before it was taken on, but it has become an international bestseller since it first appeared in 1954. There are allusions to Heart of Darkness in its pessimistic exploration of ‘the darkness of man’s heart’ when a group of boys are in effect locked down and left to their own devices on an uninhabited island. They are refugees from war and the island seems a paradise… The book made an enormous impression on me when I read it as a youngster, then I did it for English Literature O Level and went on to do a study of Golding in my final year at university. The novel has been in the news again because of a real life event which challenges Golding’s bleak conclusions in the novel about human nature. A group of boys were actually marooned on a desert island eleven years after Golding’s novel was published, and their isolation had a happier outcome.
A few days later there was a follow-up article, with the story of one of the boys involved, which shows the importance of perspective and also the vexed question of the power of the story-teller: whose story was it to tell? Being narrator, of course, grants authority and control, which might not always be appropriate.
I hope that you have all managed to catch some of the fantastic range of theatre which has been broadcast online over the last couple of months. I’ve given you the links to some really fascinating and important performances. In an original excuse for a late essay, one of my Lower Sixth students chose to watch A Streetcar Named Desire last night, forgetting that it will be available on YouTube until next Thursday. As one of the most important American plays of the twentieth century, you should certainly watch it, but particularly if you are studying the play.
Gillian Anderson gives a spellbinding performance as Blanche, and here is an interview with her about the production and her performance.
Finally, I know you are all avid readers, but I would like to exhort you to be writers too, and practise the art that you analyse. To encourage you, here is a link to a competition for young people’s writing about lockdown.