Lord of the Flies has has a tumultuous history, and it's still controversial even today. But where did the controversy come from, and why (with the controversy) is it still such a well-read book in literature classrooms?
William Golding published the novel in 1954--it was only moderately successful. But, the book has continued to gain ground. It compares with The Catcher in the Rye for how it depicts human interaction, the sometimes-brutal nature of our characters, and the hopeless/helpless situation some of the youngest find themselves in. But, part of the controversy of the novel lies in the way Golding turns the romanticized, deserted-island tale into something almost much darker (more real).
Think: part apocalyptic-future, part dystopia, part Lost-episode. No adults have survived the crash of the airplane on the island, so we're getting a glimpse at humanity at its purest, or more adolescent state. But, as the boys recreate human society, symbols emerge. The conch shell is the symbol of power; and the boys elect a leader. But, they also begin to develop a mythology--complete with the "beastie." They are the Peter Pan's lost boys--young enough to only want "fun" but old enough to have all the emotional baggage, fears, and needs.
But, as the book progresses, the boys' initial innocence develops into something much darker and more barbaric as they become "savages".