Macbeth may well be the most terrifying play in the English language, though it hasn’t always been seen that way. Traditional critics, while accepting that it is a thorough-going a study of evil, believe that in the end good prevails and that there is a providential restoration of “Order” – the order Macbeth has destroyed by killing Duncan, the ‘Holy King’. Modern critics take a darker view, seeing the end as more equivocal and the play as more
Supposing the boys on the island in Lord of the Flies had been girls. Would they have behaved in the same horrifying way? The proposed Warner Brothers film raises that question. So far as I know Golding never answered it. But the indications are that, if asked, he would have answered ‘Yes’. For one thing he frequently said that the boys on the island were exhibiting original sin (he liked quoting St Augustine in support), and original sin affects females as well as males. For another thing he said in the unpublished autobiographical essay, Men, Women and Now, that the worst thing about women was that they admired, looked up to and imitated men. The twins Sophy and Toni in Golding’s novel Darkness Visible show what he thought girls capable of. Sophy discovers she is a sadist when she digs a penknife into a boy who is having sex with her and it gives her an orgasm. Toni joins a terrorist organisation and kidnaps a group of schoolboys, successfully getting away to Africa with the boys as hostages . It would not be good to be on a desert island with either of them.
And an extract from Carey’s Connell Guide to Lord of the Flies …
Golding felt qualified to describe how boys would really behave because he had watched them with, he said, “awful precision” during his years as a schoolmaster. Further, he had introduced, he admitted, “a certain measure of experimental science” into his teaching. This was evident to the boys themselves. It occurred to more than one of his pupils that he had stirred up antagonisms between them in order to observe their reactions. Once, as master in charge of a trip to Figsbury Rings, a huge Neolithic earthwork near Salisbury, he gave permission for the boys to form into two groups, one to attack the enclosure and the other...
If I’m writing an editor’s letter in The Week, and want a lively response from readers, there’s one subject that never fails: the English language and how we use it. Sound off about the imminent danger of World War Three and you’ll draw a total blank, email-wise. Venture a thought or two about the pros and cons of the semi-colon and your inbox will rapidly start to fill (often, it has to be said, with readers pointing out your egregious errors). Well that’s my experience anyway. People have very decided views about grammar, punctuation and the subtleties of the written word. Mark Twain, for example, loathed proof readers who interfered with his copy. “First God created idiots,” he said. “But that was just for practice. Then he created proof readers.”
From the moment it premiered on American TV earlier this year, people have been drawing a parallel between the events depicted in Hulu’s adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale and Donald Trump’s presidency. In Margaret Atwood’s classic 1985 novel, America has been taken over by an autocratic, Christian fundamentalist regime, called Gilead, which hides its violent, repressive violations behind soft rhetoric about ‘a return to traditional values’. For a number of commentators, it has an eerie resonance. As Sam Wollaston wrote in his review of the first episode for the Guardian on Monday, ‘[t]here has been a lot of talk about new resonance for The Handmaid’s Tale since the election of You Know Who; fear of freedoms, rights and long-established orders disappearing overnight.’
Women are Gilead’s chief victims: as a result of plummeting fertility rates, they are valued (or not) only for their child-bearing capabilities. Those lucky few who remain fertile – whom Gilead calls ‘Handmaids’, a Biblical reference – are kept in isolation, forced to wear veils around their faces so that they have no peripheral vision, are no longer allowed to read or write, and are victims of ritualistic state-sanctioned rape.