“Lord of the Flies” is without doubt one of the best-read children’s books despite, or perhaps because of, its dark subject material. Published first in 1954, it was hardly an instant success with only 3,000 copies sold on its initial release. Within a few years however it had become a major success and became a mainstay on the curriculum of many school’s English literature classes. Yet the many links between the story and the Caribbean island of Jamaica reveal a web of intrigue and even controversy. Set at the time of a nuclear war, William Golding’s book tells the story of a group of boys who are stranded on an isolated island following a plane crash. They struggle to form a system of law and order and what they do create soon breaks down amid violence and discord.
At Errol Flynn’s Place in Jamaica
While Golding’s book does not reveal the identity of the island, the two movie adaptations of “The Lord of the Flies” have both been set in the Caribbean. A 1963 British version, directed by Peter Hook, was shot in Puerto Rico while the 1990 Hollywood remake was filmed near the home of Errol Flynn in the popular resort of Port Antonio. Flynn’s property in Jamaica is now very much part of the tourist trail, with visitors coming to see where Harry Hook’s movie had been produced.
High Jamaican Wind
Many claim that Golding took the idea for the book from an earlier classic, the 1929 “High Jamaican Wind” by Richard Hughes. Hughes’s book also tells of a group of children lost at sea and faced with many difficult and deadly situations. Yet while Golding carefully molds each child’s character to represent a particular trait (the leader, the brains, the rebel), Hughes allows the children to be more authentic characters and his book is considered an unsung and under-rated classic as a result. In “High Jamaican Wind” the characters are raised on a Jamaican plantation and are heading back to England some time in the 19th century. The island plays a starring role in the early parts of the book. It is fitting therefore that in the latest adaptation of Golding’s “The Lord of the Flies,” whatever the origins of his idea, at least the story is once again set on the sandy beaches of Jamaica.
Photo | jemasmith