In response to David Shariatmadari’s article in the Guardian, Judy Golding Carver wrote the following:
The reviewer’s characterisation of my father’s novel Lord of the Flies was a little sweeping when he declared: ‘William Golding sought to show that boys were, by their nature, little devils’ (www.theguardian.com/science/2018/apr/16/a-real-life-lord-of-the-flies-the-troubling-legacy-of-the-robbers-cave-experiment ). The boys in Lord of the Flies make quite a good fist of creating a democratic society, at least to begin with. Ralph, the democratically elected leader, admonishes Jack to stick to ‘the rules’, because ‘the rules are the only thing we’ve got’. In an interview the author said that the novel was about the importance of the rule of law. It was also about the complexity of human beings. My father greatly distrusted simple judgements. He was careful even to give Jack some good qualities, and to make him attractive. It’s possible to imagine that under different circumstances Jack and Ralph would have been friends, would have helped each other’s weaknesses, and admired each other’s strengths. But the author shows that this cannot happen on the island because the boys in their isolation are suffering unchecked ‘from the terrible disease of being human’.
The reviewer states that, in contrast to Lord of the Flies, ‘context was everything’ in the Robbers Cave Experiment, and that Sherif believed that ‘competition over scarce resources could drive people to enmity; place a common obstacle in their way, and they cooperate’ (though this begs the questions how well they cooperate and for how long). But William Golding also sought to examine the boys’ reaction in the face of such obstacles; it is the removal of law and order that engenders the eventual savage responses. For him too, context was everything, not least the novel’s opening, in the savage context of a nuclear war.
This response was also published in the Guardian.