There have been so many interpretations of the story that I’m not going to choose between them. … The only choice that really matters, the only interpretation of the story, if you want one, is your own. Not your teachers, not your professors, not mine, not a critic’s, not some authority’s. The only thing that matters is first the experience of being in the story, moving through it, then any interpretation you like. If it’s yours, then that’s the right one. Because what’s in a book is not what an author thought he put into it. It’s what the reader gets out of it.If you've ever been browbeaten by a bitter Lit professor, you can appreciate Golding's counsel. Listening to a person in power do violence to a text because of his own agenda is beyond unpleasant. Equally appalling are readers who swallow such skewed stuff, ingesting it in order to expedite a satisfactory grade or out of laziness, viewing stories as irrelevant to the meat of life. Healthy ownership of their own options would go a long way toward rectifying such wrongs.
But surely equating ownership with accuracy is an equal and opposite error. Authors possess a relationship with the text that readers can never have. They conceive it in their minds, birth the initial drafts, midwife it through the revision process and send it out into the world when it's fully grown. They do this because they have something they want to say, some point they want to communicate. Why treat it as though it doesn't exist?
Perhaps it's best to view the text as relating to both parties instead of only one or the other, a bridge stretching from author to reader, a connection drawing them onto common ground -- if they respect its inherent boundaries. Readers need to acknowledge the author's authority; authors need to strive for excellence, remembering that their work isn't solely for their own satisfaction. Golding himself acknowledged at least half of the equation in the same speech, stating, "That, really, is I suppose you could say what the book is about: If you don't have rules, that is to say if you don't have law then you’re lost." I'll venture that something similar holds true for reading and writing. Anarchistic interpretation or composition will shear the bridge straight off, leaving you with only the gulf below, dark and empty and void.
(Picture: CC 2006 by gaspi *your guide)