I have to thank Chuck Wendig for introducing me to this term.
These are the ideas, images or stories that you come across which give a permanent scar. You can’t wash away the taste or the memory. If it were a book, it would be William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. That one hit me about age 15 and I’ve hated it ever since. Maybe a British Boarding School education really can leach the humanity from a class of boys but its relentless negativity strikes me as untrue.
Let’s compare it to the more recent dystopia of Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games.
At first glance, The Hunger Games is far more awful. The upfront premise of children slaughtering children for public entertainment is hardcore. (Worse, if you’re a parent.)
The kids in Lord of the Flies only have to survive on an island paradise.
Yet, the Lord of the Flies is a much nastier read. There’s scarcely a redeeming character, the misery is relentless, and the allegories are rammed down the reader’s eyeballs. I mean, the boys haven’t even hit puberty yet so there’s not even the excuse of rampant testosterone! They simply turn feral: reverting into heathen savages in a terribly disappointing manner to their eventual rescuer.
By comparison, we cheer on Katniss, recognising that the hardest decisions to make are those when you need to survive. There is a loose honour among thieves in The Hunger Games, even among the clique of Volunteers. The notions of respecting one’s enemies and grieving at the loss of the innocent (and innocence) also resonate throughout. It does this without ever coming across as idyllic. (An idyllic dystopia – there’s an oxymoron and a half!)
Both stories push acceptable limits but one rings scarily truer than the other. And it isn’t William Golding’s **.
**The pedant in me is also happy to point out that the act of starting a fire with Piggy’s glasses demonstrates a lack of research. Piggy is nearsighted. His glasses would use diverging lenses. Good luck concentrating sunlight with those.