The Coral Island

The Coral Island (1858) is a novel written by Scottish author R. M. Ballantyne. One of the first works of juvenile fiction to feature exclusively juvenile heroes, the story relates the adventures of three boys marooned on a South Pacific island, the only survivors of a shipwreck. A typical Robinsonade – a genre inspired by Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe – and one of the most popular of its type, the book first went on sale in late 1857 and has never been out of print. Among the novel’s major themes are 19th-century British imperialism in the South Pacific, the civilising effect of Christianity, and the importance of hierarchy and leadership. It was the inspiration for William Golding’s dystopian novel Lord of the Flies (1954), which inverted the morality of The Coral Island. The novel was considered a classic for primary school children of the early 20th century in Britain, and in the United States it was a staple of suggested reading lists for high-school students. Modern critics consider The Coral Island to feature a dated imperialist view of the world. It was adapted into a four-part children’s television drama broadcast by ITV in 2000.

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