Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
If you like your medicine with a spoonful of sugar, you'd better find another book. (Unless this is required reading, in which case—we're sorry.) Golding takes a look at the worst, darkest side of human nature and reports back, with exaggeration and poetical bits thrown in for good measure. But that doesn't mean it's all doom-and-gloom. In Simon's death, for example, the tone is at first that of a silent observer noticing that "the crowd surged after it, poured down the rock, leapt on to the beast, screamed, struck, bit, tore" (9.99). All those simple words like "rock," "beast," and "bit" describe the murder without any flinching (that's what makes it "unflinching").
By the end of the chapter, though, the narrator has shifted into musing speculation:
Somewhere over the darkened curve of the world the sun and moon were pulling, and the film of water on the earth planet was held, bulging slightly on one side while the solid core turned. The great wave of the tide moved farther along the island and the water lifted. Softly, surrounded by a fringe of inquisitive bright creatures, itself a silver shape beneath the steadfast constellations, Simon's dead body moved out toward the open sea. (9.105)
From the brutal killing of a boy to the surprisingly accurate description of the moon's effect on the tides—this is a narrator who can do it all. He can even make a dead body floating out to sea sound beautiful.