Stranded. Isolated. Alone. Facing change. In 1954, William Golding published his novel, “Lord of the Flies,” in which a group of British boys are stranded on an island and must find the means to survive, while recreating a social framework. It does not go well. This thought experiment worked on the assumption that humankind is by nature evil. One criticism, posited by my Grade 1o English teacher, was that limiting the castaways to one gender removed one of the keystones of societal structure — women — and that the outcome would have been very different if there had also been girls on the island.
The plot device of being shipwrecked, or even stranded somewhere isolated, is a fairly common one in literature and entertainment. I recently binge-watched “The Wilds” on Amazon Prime Video, in which a group of young women (17 to 18 years olds) are left stranded on an island in a very literal social experiment. The creator of the experiment is trying to prove that if women were left to manage the world, there would be no war or destruction. It seems that the creators of the show disagreed as the girls face multiple conflicts among themselves. But then, without conflict driving the show, there wouldn’t be much of a plot.
This past Sunday, the pastor of my church preached from the Book of Acts, Chapter 27, in which the apostle Paul, while being transported to Rome to face trial, is shipwrecked. During the storm at sea, the nature of man is fairly obvious. The soldiers want to kill the prisoners and the sailors attempt to escape in the life boat, leaving all other passengers to die. Paul argues that if they remain together, they will all survive. And they do.
My high school English teacher once said all plots revolved around either someone new arriving, or someone leaving. It’s the inciting incident that initiates the path of the plot. Essentially, something has to change in order for the plot to move forward; otherwise, things would continue on as they always have, which sounds pretty boring. Change is inevitable; it is how a person responds to change that reveals who they really are. While some try to find the positive and strive to help those around them, others are unable to do so.
In each of the three stories described above, the participants came together, went on a voyage together, and then needed to work together to survive. Most often, someone from outside the storyline swoops in to ‘rescue’ the lost. In “Lord of the Flies,” a battlecruiser makes a timely appearance, but the fact that it’s a battleship implies that the boys are just trading their own ruined civilization for another. In “The Wilds,” we are left to assume that the girls are ‘rescued’ by those conducting the experiment, but their rescuers haven’t really saved them from anything other than location. In the Book of Acts the ship’s passengers are saved by God: God saves. What mankind does with this salvation is up to them.
Here’s to hoping that 2021 is a time of positive change. Like all good stories, 2020 came to an end, leaving us wanting to know, “but what happens next?” For me, I will be exiting Sylvan Lake within the next couple of months, and starting a new chapter in my life somewhere else. I have enjoyed writing this column and sharing my ideas about books and stories with you all. I wish you all the best.