Why Is 'Lord of the Flies' Challenged and Banned?

Controversial Themes and Lurid Passages

Two "Lord of the Flies" editions with different covers.

alaina buzas/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

"Lord of the Flies," a 1954 novel by William Golding, has been banned from schools over the years and has often been challenged. According to the American Library Association, it is the eighth-most frequently banned and challenged book in the nation. Parents, school administrators and other critics have decried the language and violence in the novel. Bullying is rampant throughout the book—indeed, it is one of the main plot lines. Many people also think that the book promotes a pro-slavery ideology, which they note is the wrong message to teach children.

The Plot 

In "Lord of the Flies," a plane crash during a wartime evacuation leaves a group of middle school boys stranded on an island. The plot may sound simple, but the story slowly degenerates into a savage survival-of-the-fittest tale, with the boys brutalizing, hunting and even killing some of their own.

Bans and Challenges

The overall theme of the book has led to many challenges and outright bans over the years. The book was challenged at Owen High School in North Carolina in 1981, for example, because it was "demoralizing inasmuch as it implies that man is little more than an animal," according to The Los Angeles Times. The novel was challenged at the Olney, Texas, Independent School District in 1984 because of "excessive violence and bad language," the ALA states. The association also notes that the book was challenged in Waterloo, Iowa schools in 1992 because of profanity, lurid passages about sex, and statements defamatory to minorities, God, women, and the disabled.

Racial Slurs

More recent versions of "Lord of the Flies" have modified some of the language in the book, but the novel originally used racist terms, particularly when referring to Black people. A committee of the Toronto, Canada Board of Education ruled on June 23, 1988, that the novel is "racist and recommended that it be removed from all schools" after parents objected to the book's use of racial profanity, saying that the novel denigrated Black people, according to the ALA. 

General Violence

A major theme of the novel is that human nature is violent and that there isn't any hope for redemption for humankind. The last page of the novel includes this line: "Ralph [the initial leader of the group of boys] wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy." Piggy was one of the characters killed in the book. Many school districts "believe the book's violence and demoralizing scenes to be too much for young audiences to handle," according to enotes.

Despite attempts to ban the book, "Lord of the Flies" remains popular. In 2013, a first-edition—signed by the author—even sold for nearly $20,000. 

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Lombardi, Esther. "Why Is 'Lord of the Flies' Challenged and Banned?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/lord-of-the-flies-banned-challenged-740596. Lombardi, Esther. (2020, August 27). Why Is 'Lord of the Flies' Challenged and Banned? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/lord-of-the-flies-banned-challenged-740596 Lombardi, Esther. "Why Is 'Lord of the Flies' Challenged and Banned?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/lord-of-the-flies-banned-challenged-740596 (accessed May 28, 2023).