I taught English for many years, and Lord of the Flies was the most popular novel my students read, because it is a wonderful adventure story. Beyond the many biblical allusions which are fun to analyze and understand, there is the general appeal of a plot which involves characters crash-landing on a deserted island and being forced to fend for themselves to survive. The prose is fresh and furiously fast-paced, sending the reader hurtling through the pages. Golding's message about society's defects stemming from the nature of mankind is nothing less than timeless.
However, what truly distinguishes Golding's writing is his gift of characterization. He draws the reader into his characters, especially Ralph, Jack, Simon, Roger and Piggy. Each character is compelling in his own right and has his own foibles; no one is flawless. Savage characters like Roger and Jack are always powerful, and we crave to read about their savagery as man tends to be inherently savage. But however daunting Jack and Roger are, their characters tend not to be as rounded as their more civilized counterparts. The reader never quite understands what causes Jack's rapid descent into savagery and what precisely pushes him over the brink, aside from an obvious lust for violence and an obsession with the hunt for the pig. The character of Simon is poignant and he is a significant tragic figure. His imagined conversation with the "Lord of the Flies" is a penetrating, frightening scene, replete with much symbolism.
Golding's representation of human nature is dark and grim, and extremely daunting. It is a brilliant work, imagining man's return to that state of darkness which it took him thousands of years to escape. Lord of the Flies is an influential novel, on a par with Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, and a must read. Stephen King said of Lord of the Flies, "It is my selection for the book that changed my life. It is both a story with a message and a great tale of adventure. My advice about reading it is to do a lot of it."