Thursday, October 13, 2011

William Golding

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Mrs. Ney

Junior English (11), mods. 15-16

William Golding

The Work of William Gerald Golding, late 0th century British novelist, offers something new in every novel, has a theme of good and evil and the natural corruption of human nature and reflects his personal experiences as a child, as a young man in the navy and his experience with his father who was a strong believer in rationalism.

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William Golding’s father had a strong influence on his work. His father believed in rationalism (Carey 16), the idea that reason and not experience is the best way to gain knowledge in the world (West). Earlier in life, Golding believed in rationalism but after he saw what men could do to each other in World War II, he began to believe that men were naturally evil and this was reflected in Lord of the Flies (Johnston 1). His Later works were more complicated and were not as successful as Lord of the Flies. (Hodson ) Golding chose not to write books similar to lord of the flies because he did not want to do the same thing twice (Johnston)

William Golding was born at St. Columb Minor in Cornwall, England on September 1, 111 of Mildred and Alec Golding (Hodson 1). His father was a teacher in the school, which he attended, and a rationalist (Carey 16). His mother was a Suffragette who struggled to give women the right to vote (Hodson 1). William Golding went to Brasenose College at Oxford in 10 and studied science for two years before revolting against his scientific upbringing and switching to English literature (Lord of the Flies 04). Golding’s first interest was poetry and he did not publish Novels until after World War II. (Carver par. 6)

William Golding went to the school in which his father taught until he went to Oxford in 10 (Press Release par. 14). After switching to the study of literature, he wrote poetry and published a book of poems in 14. This book of Poems was not very successful and even Golding says “When I was twenty-one, a friend sent my verses to a publisher who in a moment of blindness offered to publish them (Hodson ). He graduated form Oxford in 15. He worked doing various jobs in a theater but he had to work as a social worker to pay his bills (Press par. 15).

Alec Golding had a great influence on his son. He had an anti-religious belief in Rationalism. Rationalism came from such great thinkers as T.H. Huxley and H.G. Wells. William Golding’s father encouraged him to study science but he finished his studies in literature (Encarta 1). William Golding had a deep love and respect for his father but his novels showed a conflict with his father’s belief in Rationalism. (Carey 17).

In 1, Golding became a teacher at the Bishop Wordsworth’s School in Salisbury and married Ann Brookfield the same year. He had two children and remained a teacher until he went into the Royal Navy for five years during World War II (Carver par. 5). William Golding’s five years in the navy had a great influence on his work because it exposed him to the cruelty and barbarity of human nature (Carver par. 7). In a speech made in the United States he describes how World War II influenced his thinking.

Before the Second World War I believed in the perfectibility of social man; that a correct structure of society would produce goodwill . . . It is possible that today I believe something of the same again; but after the war I did not because I was unable to. I had discovered what one man could do to another . . . I believed then, that man was sick�not exceptional man, but average man. (Johnston 1)

After his time in the navy, he returned to his position as a teacher until 161. In 154, William Golding published Lord of the Flies and it was an immediate success. As shown in the following quote from an interview with the BBC in 158 Golding wanted

every book to be completely original and different from anything else and this is part of the reason some of his later books were more complex but less successful.

It seems to me that there’s really very little point in writing a novel unless you do something that either you suspected you couldn’t do, or which you are pretty certain nobody else has tried before. I don’t think there’s any point in writing two books that are like each other (Hodson )

None of the books William Golding published after Lord of the Flies had the same success but many received critical acclaim and William Golding thought that they each said something important. In 155, Golding published The Inheritors. The Inheritors is very complicated and is not very accessible to most readers but it is Golding’s favorite book. It takes place in a time when Homo sapiens are overtaking Neanderthals and tells the story of how this happens. It did not have the same success as Lord of the Flies but it was Golding’s favorite book (Hodson ). He published Pincher Martin in 155, Freefall in 15, The Spire in 164, The Pyramid in 167, Darkness Visible in 17 and Paper Men in 184 (Encarta). William Golding received the Nobel Prize in 18, one year before he published Paper Men (Press Release). He died in Cornwall in 1 (Carver).

Many publishers refused to publish Lord of the Flies but finally Faber & Faber decided to publish it and it was an immediate success. Lord of the Flies is the story of a group of kids who are isolated on a desert island after a nuclear event that is not described and a plane crash. It tells the story about how they try to organize a society but it leads to a conflict between the boys in which two of them die and their moral degradation becomes evident. Near the end of the novel, Jack kills Piggy. This shows how the boys have become complete savages (Hodson 0);

The rock struck Piggy a glancing blow from chin to knee; the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist. Piggy, saying nothing, with no time for even a grunt, traveled through the air sideways from the rock, turning over as he went . . . Piggy fell forty feet and landed on his back across the square red rock in the sea. His head opened and stuff came out and turned red . . . Suddenly Jack bounded out from the tribe and began screaming wildly.

“See? See? That’s what you’ll get! I meant that! There isn’t a tribe for you any more! The conch is gone�”

He ran forward, stooping. “I’m chief!” (Lord of the Flies 181)

In the end of the novel, the boys are on a Manhunt for one of the boys. They have burned down the forest to flush the boy out. A British battleship sees the smoke and arrives to take them off the island.

Lord of the Flies is not only an adventure story but it also makes a statement about human nature (Hodson 1). Hodson describes it at as a “Metaphor for Darkness.” The theme is “an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature” (Lord of the Flies 04). The Moral of Lord of the Flies is that the good or evil of society is dependent on individual nature and that no political system, even if it sounds very logical can make society perfect. This book tries to show that man has a natural tendency towards savagery (Johnston ).

Lord of the Flies is very closely related to Coral Island by R.M. Ballantyne and even refers to it twice in the text ().

“It’s like in a book”

At once there was a clamor.

“Treasure Island�”

“Swallows and Amazons�”

“Coral Island�” (Lord of the Flies 4)

“We were together then�”

The officer nodded helpfully.

“I know. Jolly good show. Like the Coral Island.” (0)

The main characters of Ralph and Jack are present in both books. Lord of the Flies was written in many respects as the opposite of Coral Island (Johnston ). Many people have called it a darker version of Coral Island but Golding prefers to call it a more realistic version (Hodson ). Whereas in Coral Island the boys have a perfect society on the island, the boys in Lord of the Flies degenerate into physical conflict (Johnston ).

The Inheritors was published in 155. William Golding wanted to write something different so this book is technically very complicated (Hodson ). William Golding seems to have removed everything that would make a book enjoyable. The book received mixed reviews because there is no narrative or details but it is still impossible to understand on the first reading (Hodson 40). It is also hard to connect with the setting chosen by Golding; prehistoric, Neanderthal society.

The book tells the story of how Homo sapiens overrun and displace the Neanderthals and become the dominant species. The book is written through the view of the Neanderthals who call themselves ‘the people’ (Johnston ). They are vegetarians and are very peaceful in contrast with the Homo sapiens who are violent yet the Homo sapiens become dominant (). The book begins very slowly and not much happens until about half way through the book (Hodson ).

The Inheritors is an inversion of H.G. Wells’ Outline of History that shows the opposite view. While Outline of History told of how the Homo-Sapien race was superior so it became dominant The Inheritors describes how the Homo Sapiens were violent and therefore were able to force the Neanderthals to move. Outline of History expressed a rationalist view. This is another way in which rationalism influenced William Golding (40).

The first contact with the Homo sapiens comes when Ha is killed. The following quote from the book comes as Nil describes how Ha was killed. It is intended to demonstrate that the Neanderthals are superior to the Homo sapiens because the Homo Sapiens are violent and aggressive but the Neanderthals are peaceful. It also shows how the Neanderthal view of the world can often make the book hard to connect with and makes a simple dialogue very complicated.

“Then Ha goes toward the river to drink and I stay by the wood” . . . “But he cries out ‘Nil’. When I stand up, I see Ha running towards the cliff. He is running after something. He looks back and he is glad and then he is frightened and glad.”

Later Nil describes what she smelled on the cliff

“There is a smell on the cliff. Two. Ha and another. Not Lok. Not Fa. Not Liku. Not Mal. Not her. Not Nil. There is another smell of nobody. Going up the cliff and coming back. But the smell of Ha stops (Inheritors 66).

Another poignant example of the Homo sapiens’ violence comes on p.106. This is another early contact between ‘The People’ and ‘The Inheritors. In the quote, the two groups can see each other across a stream but cannot reach each other.

A stick was upright and there was a lump of bone in the middle. Lok peered at the stick and the lump of bone and the small eyes in the bone things over the face. Suddenly Lok understood that the man was holding the stick out to him but neither he nor Lok could reach across the river. He would have laughed if it were not for the echo screaming in his head. The stick now began to grow shorter at both ends. Then it shot out to full length again.

The dead tree by Lok’s ear acquired a voice


His ears twitched and he turned to the tree. By his face there had grown a twig (Johnston 5).

The Inheritors expresses William Golding’s view on the Human Race as somehow socially defective. We are the most direct descendants of the Homo sapiens so this makes us the same as them (1). In this book Golding proposes that Neanderthals are better than Homo sapiens but that Homo sapiens came out on top because of their violence and aggression. Although the book may be good at expressing Golding’s argument, it is not interesting to read because of the point of view and the setting.

The Spire is the story of ‘Jocelin’, the Dean of a church who wants to build a 400-foot spire on top of his church even thought the foundations cannot support it (Hodson 8). He argues that god will support the Spire and convinces builders to build it. Throughout the novel he is blinded by his pride. The novel is most likely referring to the building of a 400 foot high spire on Salisbury’s Cathedral in the 1th century (Johnston 67).

In order to construct the spire Jocelin lies to himself and sacrifices his principles. He condones an adulterous relationship so that the builder will build his spire and he convinces himself that the workers did not murder one of the people from the church so that they will build his spire (7). He also accepts wood for the construction of the spire as a bribe in exchange for the promotion of a wealthy man’s son in the church (7).

In the end of the book, he sees his mistakes and wishes he could go back. Just before his death he sees how his pride led him to build the spire but he also sees how even though people suffered and died to build the spire it was all for the better because everybody on earth is ephemeral but the spire will last longer than anybody. As he understands this he sees the window in his room as two eyes. The two eyes then focus and he sees the spire through the window (80). This is when he ‘sees the light’.

There were two eyes looking at him through the panic. They were the only steady things, and before them he was like a building about to fall. They looked in, an eye for an eye, one eye for each eye. He bit more air and clung to the eyes with his own as the only steady things in living.

The tow eyes slid together.

It was the window, bright and open. Something divided it. Round the division was the blue of the sky. The division was still and silent, but rushing upward to some point at the sky’s end, and with a silent cry. It was slim as a girl, translucent (The Spire 15).

The Spire like The Inheritors uses a limited viewpoint that only allows the reader to see certain things and to see them from certain people’s perspectives (6). The Spire also has sexual meaning as shown in the following quote (Johnston 70).

The model was like a man lying on his back. The nave was his legs placed together, the transepts on either side were his arms outspread. The choir was his body; and the Lady Chapel, where now the services would be held, was his head. And now also, springing, projecting, bursting, erupting from the heart of the building, there was its crown and majesty, the new spire (The Spire 4).

William Golding was influenced by his upbringing in a time of peace and relative prosperity and his sudden realization in World War II that man is capable of horrible things. He produced one important work, Lord of the Flies and his other works were less successful. He tried to make a new contribution to literature in each of his works but many of his later works were less interesting and less popular than his first (Hodson ).

Works Cited

Carey, John. William Golding The Man and his Books. New York Farrar Straus Giroux, 187

Carver, Judy. William Golding. http//, 17

“Golding, Sir William (Gerald)” Encarta. 1

Golding, William. The Inheritors. New York Harcourt Brace Jovanavich, 155

Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. Puntam, 154

Golding, William. The Spire. New York Harcourt, 146

Hodson, Leighton. William Golding. New York Capricorn Books, 16

Johnston, Arnold. Of Earth and Darkness The Novels of William Golding. Columbia University of Missouri Press, 180

“Press Release The Nobel Prize for Litterature 18.” The Nobel Foundation, November 1, 001 (http//

West, Henry R. “Rationalism” Encarta. 1

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