Sunday, December 12, 2010

William Golding A Critical Survey of His Novels

The Theme of Evil and Good in 20th-Century Fiction
A large number of novelists in the twentieth century have grappled with the problem of evil in this world. One of these novelists, P.H. Newby, speaks of the collision of innocence and experience, a collision from which it is impossible to escape. This collision appears prominently in Newby’s own novels, especially in A Step to Silence (1952).
This novel by Newby is set immediately, before the outbreak of World War II, in a world haunted because of the ever-present possibility of violence. The hero of this novel is Oliver Knight, an eighteen-year old young man about to enter college. Oliver is shocked by the attempted suicide of a friend of his. This incident shows to Oliver the helplessness of innocence in a violent, dangerous world. Like several of his contemporaries, Newby strongly links this individual loss of innocence to the political and historical developments of the time. In A Step to Silence, Jane tries to shake Oliver Knight out of his innocence, insisting “You’ve got to know there is a real something called Evil if you want to understand the world you’re living in.” Oliver, feeling only slightly convinced, remains confused by “the imminence of war, the immanence of God, the reality of Evil.” Now, several other novelists of the middle of this century have made their own assessments of the nature of good and evil, and of the immanence of God; and they have been encouraged to do so by the actuality of the War Good and evil may be regarded as further extensions of the opposites of peace and violence, and of innocence and experience, which Newby visualized as being the result of the impact of World War II on contemporary life. In any case, the circumstances of that war particularly increased the belief and the interest in the existence of “a real something called Evil.” Britain’s struggle against Fascism and Nazism was frequently seen at the time as a struggle against evil and against the powers of darkness.
Good and Evil, a Major Preoccupation With Golding
A female character in a novel called The White Hotel (written in 1981 by D.M. Thomas) says that what torments her is whether life is good or evil, and she talks of “good and evil coupling, to make the world.” This uncertainty about whether life is good or evil is to be found in many novels written after World War II, perhaps as a consequence of the War. The struggle between good and evil is a theme in Wyndham Lewis’s Monstre Gai and Malign Fiesta (both written in 1955). This struggle between the forces of good and evil is also to be found in Doris Lessing’s Canopus in Argos : Archives. Here we are shown the powers of good and evil brooding in deep space over the fate of the earth. These opposed moral forces figure prominently also in the novels of Iris Murdoch, Anthony Burgess, and William Golding. Each of these writers lived through World War II which was perhaps responsible for their subsequent visions of “good and evil coupling, to make the world “The cruelties of the War, and the barbarities perpetrated in the Nazi concentration camps could not have failed to influence these writers. William Golding, then, belongs to that category of twentieth-century novelists with whom the conflict between good and evil is a major preoccupation. Indeed, the theme of good and evil, and particularly of evil, is conspicuous in most of the eight novels written by William Golding. A brief survey of these novels would show what kind of a novelist William Golding is.
I. “LORD OF THE FLIES” (1954)
A Customary View, Rejected By Golding
Lord of the Flies, published in 1954, was deliberately written by Golding to upset the customary view that boys are innocent and that they would behave innocently and admirably even when released from all .parental control and school discipline. In R.M. Ballantyne’s Victorian story, Coral Island, the schoolboys behave in a most praiseworthy manner when they find themselves on an uninhabited island. In that story, the schoolboys rise virtuously to the occasion. But Golding in Lord of the Flies rejects such a view of the behaviour’ of ‘schoolboys. Golding’s schoolboys, victims of a war-time air disaster, revert to savagery. Attempts to sustain the discipline and organization of civilized beings give way gradually, under a perverse leader by the name of Jack Merridew, to hunting, killing, and barbarous rituals. A Christ-like boy called Simon is killed sacrificially. And then another boy, nicknamed Piggy, is murdered deliberately by one of the followers of the perverse leader.
The Schoolboys’ Loss of Their Innocence
The story of Lord of the Flies demonstrates “the end of innocence” and “the darkness of man’s heart”. Golding develops this theme in loose analogy with the Biblical story of original sin in the Garden of Eden. A group of boys find themselves marooned on a largely paradisal desert island and they are depicted as rapidly falling away, from civilization into barbarism and becoming followers of the Lord of the Flies. (The Lord of the Flies is a name for the devil). An officer from the naval cruiser, who rescues the boys at the end, remarks in a tone of disappointment : “I should have thought that a pack of British boys would have been able to put up a better show than that,” adding that the boys’ situation reminds him of the Coral Island. Although Golding’s novel is partly based on R.M. Ballantyne’s Coral Island (which had been written in 1857), Golding’s approach to juvenile psychology and to human nature is widely different from that of Ballantyne. Lord of the Flies belongs to an age of disillusionment and therefore strikes an altogether different note from the Victorian optimism of Ballantyne’s story in which the enterprising boys recreate a picture of British society far away from home, in the wilderness. Lord of the Flies denies even the hope that human innocence exists in children.
II. “THE INHERITORS” (1955)
The Moral Superiority of Neanderthal Man to Homo Sapiens
Although Lord of the Flies has generally been regarded as Golding’s masterpiece, Golding himself thinks The Inheritors to be his best novel. This novel is again an allegory, like Lord of the Flies; and here too the theme is that of evil in human nature. In The Inheritors, Golding goes back to the time when homo sapiens was taking over from Neanderthal man. Golding refers to the Neanderthalers as “the people”. They are shown as having strong primary sensations but they are unable to concep­tualize or pattern their experience in art or ritual. “The people” have a simple piety; they do not kill for food; and they live together amiably and unselfishly. But homo sapiens (described as the “new men”) eventually destroy the Neanderthalers (or “the people”). These “new men” were our ancestors, and Golding in his novel tries to establish that the primitive or pre-historic Neanderthalers were not ogres. The supersession of “the people” by “the new men” or homo sapiens was cer­tainly a stage in the evolution of the species to which we belong ; but this stage does not necessarily mark moral progress. The Neanderthalers are shown to be morally superior to the new men who destroy them. The relationship of the new men to the Neanderthalers is that of “the fallen” to “the innocent”. The new men can conceptualize and can deceive themselves; they are “endowed with possessions, skill, and malice.” The new men are intelligent, equipped with reason and art ; but they have at the same time a capacity for hatred, crime, and superstition, and this capacity alienates them from Nature and even from one another, thus making them a sad alternative to their predecessors. Golding visualized the Neanderthal age as one of Edenic simplicity, of loving community trust, and of a communion with the world of Nature.
Golding’s Use of Distinctive Language
A most striking feature of The Inheritors is the kind of language which Golding uses to describe primitive, natural settings. The language here is simple, declarative, and vividly perceptual; and it seems to represent a consciousness which is barely able to distinguish dream, memory, imagination, and actuality. This language compels readers to make connections and reach conclusions about events barely comprehensible to the participants themselves. In fact, such language is typical of Golding’s work as a whole.
Various Ways of Approaching This Novel
According to a critic, there are different ways in which we can approach The Inheritors. Golding here seems to contradict H.G. Wells’s thesis about the Neanderthalers as set forth in his The Outline of History, just as Golding had previously contradicted Ballantyne’s view of schoolboys as conveyed through Coral Island. So we may approach The Inheritors as a fictional essay in pre-­history, seeking to substitute a truer picture of Neanderthal man for the customary view which is not acceptable to Golding. But there is another way of approaching this novel. The Inheritors takes us to another-world and another-time, which we can enjoy for their own sake, irrespective of historical truth or untruth. The Inheritors may be looked at as science fiction taking us backwards as space fiction take us forwards. The Inheritors introduces us to Neanderthalers instead of to Martians, but it gives us the same pleasure in the exotic, or in the familiar as seen through strange eyes. And yet The Inheritors is also an allegory, as already pointed out. The Neanderthalers in this novel are the true innocents, the harmless ones. The Neanderthalers are altogether without evil in themselves; and they are therefore incapable of understanding the evil when it meets and destroys them. The Neanderthalers run lovingly to meet those who are out to kill them ; and they are quite incapable of preserving themselves from being destroyed by their oppressors. The title of the novel is bitterly ironical, because it is not the meek who inherit the earth but the killers of the meek.
III. “PINCHER MARTIN” (1956)
A Study in Damnation of a Self-Willed Man
In this novel (which was published in the U.S.A. under the heading of “The Two Deaths of Christopher Martin” in 1957), a naval lieutenant is tossing in mid-Atlantic after a torpedo attack on his ship, a destroyer in the navy. He climbs on to what appears to be Rockall to put up an apparently courageous, almost super­human, fight for survival. The events of the past float through his mind. The heroic endeavour of this man reminds us of Prometheus and Robinson Crusoe. But then we learn that Martin’s will to live has its basis in a fundamentally shallow self-dramati­zation on the part of a man who has cheated and bullied and exploited others in making his way. Finally, it is revealed that all has taken place in the man’s mind in the few moments before he had got drowned. Thus in this novel Golding modifies the story of Robinson Crusoe who was a pious, resourceful individualist. Golding’s novel is a study in damnation of a man whose self-will has brought him into conflict with God.
The Evil and the Selfishness in Martin’s Nature
Pincher Martin shows to a notable extent the linguistic facility which, as already indicated, stamps Golding’s whole work. This novel presents with great sensual immediacy man in an elemental relation to Nature. Christopher Pincher Martin is a “poor mad creature clinging to a rock in the middle of the sea”. His distress is heightened by tormenting memories of his past. These memories are brought to our minds through the flash-back technique, and they show Martin’s boundless selfishness culminating in an attempt to murder his saintly friend Nathaniel, ironically at the very moment when their destroyer was sunk. Pincher’s struggle for survival, however, is more complicated even than it at first appears. The conclusion of the novel offers a radically different perception of all that has preceded it. Washed ashore, Pincher’s body shows that he did not even have time to kick off his sea-boots when the ship sank. The reader has shared in Pincher’s creation of a wholly fictional future for himself, a refuge on a rock in the middle of the sea constructed out of dissolving fragments of his consciousness at the moment of death. The selfishness which marred Pincher’s life contributes to this mental refusal of personal annihilation, and to his choice instead of a self-created purgatory. Wicked, doomed, but extremely flexible, the greedy clinging of Pincher’s mind to the remotest stirrings of its consciousness indicates an extraordinary capacity to endure, but also an inescapable implication of evil and selfishness within an exceptional strength of individuality.
Golding’s New Concern With Character
As a critic points out, Pincher Martin shows the beginning of a new concern with character on the part of Golding. This is the first novel by Golding to have as its title the name of an individual, and also the first novel to be told from a point of view within an individual consciousness. It is the first novel by Golding to have an adult, contemporary protagonist, drawn in detail, and concerned with sexual and social relationships in a modern world. Here for the first time the protagonist creates the fictional world. In this novel the style has suitably been modified to express an imperfect human being with an imperfect vision. For the first time in Golding we meet vulgarity, insensitivity, ugliness, and banality fitted to the consciousness we have to live in.
IV. “FREE FALL” (1960)
Sammy Mountjoy’s Autobiographical Recollections
The Inheritors, Lord of the Flies, and Pincher Martin showed something of the origin of evil within the human species, the inherent presence of evil within civilized man, and the inevitable connection between evil and the individual will. All these three novels were set in contexts remote in time and space from everyday life. Each was essentially a fable or an allegory, illustrative of a particular facet of the truth about man and his nature. It is for this reason that Golding has been described as not a novelist but an allegorist. Free Fall shows the influence of Dante just as Lord of the Flies had shown the influence of Ballantyne and as The Inheritors had shown the influence of Defoe though the influence had taken the form of a reversal of attitude in the case of Lord of the Flies. In Free Fall, the protagonist is Sammy Mountjoy who, lost in the blackness of middle life, tries to recall how he came to be where he is. His autobiographical recollections gradually track down the point of his fall. He lost the freedom of childhood by the manner in which he treated Beatrice Ifor with whom he fell in love. He wanted to possess and subdue Beatrice. He seduced, degraded, and then forsook her. In re-discovering the image of what she revealed to him, he learns to identify the moment of his fall. But when he sees her again, she is insane and is living in a lunatic asylum, paying the price.
Resemblances Between “Free Fall” and “Pincher Martin”
Free Fall is regarded as the most elusive and difficult of Golding’s novels. It is difficult because Golding is here questioning the nature of understanding itself. There is a central obscurity in this novel but this obscurity has been called noble, heroic, and beautiful. Although this novel differs in many respects from Pincher Martin, yet it also resembles that novel in certain other respects. We recognize in Free Fall some of the characters whom we met in Pincher Martin. Mary of Pincher Martin becomes Beatrice in Free Fall; Sammy is a subtilized Pincher. The love-affair which in Pincher Martin was only one set of stills among many is in Free Fall the central tragedy which challenges our understanding. The flashback world in this novel has increased in scope and complexity so as to become the main picture.
From “Being” to “Becoming”
There is, however, a major difference between the two novels. The tragedy in Free Fall has a before and an after. In this case we feel prompted to examine what led up to the tragedy and what necessarily followed. In Pincher Martin, the past merely focussed the present to give sharper definition to the same picture the picture of the static, determined Being of the protagonist. His Being was co-terminus with his life, and the activity of the book was one of recognition. Now, in Free Fall, we hear Sammy Mountjoy asking questions, seeking to discover how he became what he is, trying to explain how the innocence of his child hood was destroyed by his consciously choosing will, exploring his past in search of a pattern of Becoming governed by choice. In short, Being gives way in this novel to the exploration, explanation, and discovery of Becoming. Consequently, Free Fall is concerned with moral analysis. This novel is inevitably about character, in exactly the way that Pincher Martin was not. So for the first time Golding abandons his isolated settings and gives us the social scene. Free Fall takes place in Britain of contemporary times and describes in some ways a representative experience. This novel is also the portrait of the artist as a young man : the slum childhood, the tough school-days, the growing ability to paint, the college of art, the first and overwhelming love. Indeed, Free Fall looks like a novel of character and environment. Such a novel would seem to have at its centre the notions of responsibility; and so we find Sammy Mountjoy asking an explicit question : “What am I looking for ? I am looking for the beginning of responsibility.” The question takes us necessarily into the world of Becoming.
V. “THE SPIRE” (1964)
A Conflict Between Angel and Demon
The Spire is a complex study in human wilfulness. It is based on the actual history of the construction of a spire at Salisbury Cathedral. It goes back to the fourteenth century and contains a portrayal of Jocelin, a Dean, who is obsessed with a desire to erect a spire in defiance of architectural practicalities. Jocelin’s passion for the spire is at once a vocation served with costly zeal and dedication, and an expression of wilful personal desire to stamp his phallic image against the sky. This dual moti­vation behind Jocelin’s undertaking brings angel and demon into conflict for his soul.
A Straightforward Novel, Combining Clarity With Opacity
A reading of The Spire brings to our minds such words as ambiguity, paradox, and reversal, even though at the same time we must agree that in its purely narrative trajectory The Spire is the most straightforward of Golding’s novels since Lord of the Flies. The story of The Spire does not have the obscurity of The Inheritors. Nor does this novel have the double structure behind Pincher Martin’s remorseless concentration on a single moment ; nor yet does it have the sudden shifts in time, direction, and mode of Free Fall. The narrative here is as clear as the spire itself, and any obstruction to our reading of the story comes from the density and intensity with which its implications are investiga­ted. The novel combines, however, extreme clarity with extreme opacity. This curious dual impression is not a sequential one, because we do not find light giving way to darkness but the light changing constantly as we read. We can often see, caught in a single paragraph, different reflections of the book as a whole. One such moment occurs at the very beginning of the novel; when Jocelin stands at the great west door of his cathedral looking up the aisle.
Our Ambivalent Response to Jocelin
From the outset of the novel, Dean Jocelin dominates the scene and also our imaginations. Our response to the man is, how­ever, constantly ambivalent. We keep asking ourselves whether this man is a saint or a self-deceived and destructive monomaniac. The first four chapters suggest that any answer to our question will be paradoxical. While the first four chapters are intensive, the next four are extensive, as the tower rises and permits wider and higher views. “Up here” there is growth, certainty, happiness; “below” is darkness, incomprehension, distraction; or so it seems. The third and final part of the book, consisting of four more chapters, opens with what looks like an ending. The foreman Jehan loosens too quickly the cable around the wedges. The octagons come thundering down, while terrified workmen fight down the ladders. The great work still stands, but it now openly reveals its crookedness.
The Interrogation of Jocelin By the Visitor
The novel about building a spire is over. But the Visitor and his Commission mark a starting-point for a further journey. The arrival of the Visitor reminds us of the arrival of the naval officer towards the end of Lord of the Flies. However, here the Visitor is not thick-headed and not incapable of understanding the situation. He is powerful, intuitive, and sympathetic, and we feel a due respect for his handling of Anselm and for his acceptance of Jocelin’s definitions of faith and service. If we can understand why Jocelin feels the interrogation to be “unfair and unanswerable”, we can also see how fatal the exposure of the tainted money and the tainted workmen is, and how short­sighted and desperate Jocelin’s answers sound when the questions are put. The Visitor retains a real sense of Jocelin’s faith; and, though there is a gap between the Visitor’s experience and ours, the interrogation is still rightly directed. As the questioning proceeds, the direction becomes clear. Jocelin is forced into answers which sharpen his self-knowledge.
Father Adam’s Act of Christian Charity
The endings of Golding’s novels are always extremely important; and they contain vital shifts of meaning. Formally, the action of the closing pages can be quickly described. Father Adam summons Jocelin by name, in order to help him into heaven. Jocelin must, however, assent to his faith. With growing urgency, as the moment of death approaches, Father Adam tries to make Jocelin say the words : “I believe.” Or, if Jocelin cannot say these words, he should at least make some gesture of assent. But there is no response from Jocelin. Only, at the very end, Jocelin’s lips seem to say something which Father Adam interprets as : “God ! God ! God !” And so Father Adam administers the Host to the dead Jocelin’s tongue. We, however, know that Jocelin’s lips had not spoken “God ! God ! God!” Evidently, Jocelin had died seeing nothing but despair. Father Adam’s action in administering the holy bread to Jocelin was a mark only of Christian charity.
The Symbolic Meaning of the Spire
Jocelin speaks rather incoherently before his death. He utters the name of Berenice the saint. This is perhaps the psychological explanation of the working of Jocelin’s mind. St. Berenice had dedicated her hair, her crowning glory, to sexual love, and had erected it to the stars. So Jocelin’s spire can be seen as an erect phallus lifted towards the girl he had lusted after. The building of the spire was therefore the substitute gratification of a need which Jocelin would never have consciously acknowledged. The spire was a self-erection of self-fulfilment.
VI. “THE PYRAMID” (1967)
A Social Comedy
The Pyramid is a funny book with serious things to say. It is a comic masterpiece which is filled with laughter caused by a discomforting awareness of the limitations and absurdities of life. In part the novel concerns the narrator Oliver’s growing up, and consists of three stories, interlocked in a complicated pattern.
A Story of a Young Man Called Oliver
The first section of the novel describes Oliver’s sexual initiation with Evie Babbacombe in “the erotic woods.” In the second, he overcomes his calf love for Imogen Grantley and has an encounter with transvestite homosexuality which he does not understand. The third and final part describes the long process by which Oliver emancipates himself from other crippling elements in his upbringing, especially a guilt complex and the crushing influence of his music teacher, Miss Dawlish. This process is not completed until he is in his forties and a prosperous family man.
Oliver’s Seduction of Evie
Oliver is by no means as vicious and selfish as Pincher Martin or Sammy Mountjoy (of Free Fall), nor does he destroy other people’s lives as does Jocelin (in The Spire). Yet Oliver does treat people, especially Evie, as objects. He decides that he must possess Evie much as Mountjoy decides to make love to Beatrice. And Oliver does have Evie, though in their sexual encounter there is no hint of tenderness. Evie is, of course, no innocent. She has been involved with Bobbie Ewan before Oliver, and she has had a sexual relationship with at least three others including her own father, Sergeant Babbacombe. Afraid that Evie may have become pregnant, Oliver views the consequences with horror. Evie leaves the village and becomes the mistress-secretary of a rich industrialist, while Oliver goes to Oxford to study chemistry.
Oliver’s Dehumanization
The short middle section of the novel concerns the village Operatic Society. While it serves as a bridging passage, this section is also an epitome of the rest of the novel––a small pyramid that forms the top of the large pyramid, part of the whole yet geometrically similar to it. In this section, Oliver’s absurd garb and his participation in the comic and pathetic operatic performance are symbolic of his dehumanization.
Oliver’s Failure as a Hero
The third section of the novel is hardly comic, except in the black sense. Here we have the story of Clare Cecilia Dawlish, the music teacher known as Bounce. Bounce’s father had made a sexless automaton of his daughter. She becomes conscious of her femininity only after her father’s death when she meets a young mechanic, Henry Williams. But Henry Williams is already married. Bounce only suffers disappointment and humiliation in her unsuccessful relationship with Henry. Years later when Oliver returns to the village, Bounce is already dead. Bounce had needed Henry’s love or at least his affection, but she had never got much of it. Nor had Bounce received any affection from Oliver who had taken music lessons from her and who had become an accomplished violinist under her supervision. Oliver and Henry are alike in their selfishness and in their disrespect for another human being who needed so little and got nothing. Oliver realizes his criminal kinship with Henry when he stops to get petrol for his car from a petrol-station. Oliver has failed as have most of Golding’s other heroes like Sammy Mountjoy and Jocelin.
VII. “DARKNESS VISIBLE” (1979)
An Anticipation at the Struggle Between Good and Evil in Part I
The influence of World War II on Golding’s mind is clearly seen in the very opening of this novel. It depicts an innocent child, Matty, walking out of the fiery centre of war in the London blitz, as if “born from the sheer agony of a burning city.” One half of Matty’s face is light, while the other half is burned dark. The novel shows him going on to enter a strange, universal struggle between the powers of good and the powers of evil, a struggle which is half-spiritual and half-earthly.
Part II of the Novel, an Examination of Evil
Part I of this novel shares the allegorical style of Golding’s earlier writing. We are here shown Matty as “a human shape or a wit of flickering brightness”. Matty appears to be an awkward saint whose experience is often described in Biblical language and is approximate to crucifixion and a passage, through the underworld. Part II of the nodal, entitled “Sophy”, examines evil, sometimes envisaged on a cosmic scale in terms of “the voice of the darkness between the stars, between the galaxies, the toneless voice of the great skein unraveling……” The main character in this Part is Sophy, a girl who feels that the whole world seems to be cooperating with the darkness towards which everything is “running-down”. Even the narrative voice of the novel seems to “cooperate” in Sophy’s vision, often adding the words “of course” to descriptions of evil or human failure. In other words, Sophy gets the feeling that evil dominates the world and that everything in the world seems to support or at least to approve of the dominance of evil. At the same time Part II of the novel is concerned realistically with life in the shabby streets and super­markets of contemporary Britain.
A Revitalizing Intrusion From the World of Spirit in Part III
Part III of the novel is entitled “One is One”. Here we are shown “the world of spirit” of the novel’s Part I entering and informing the everyday life of Part II. Matty dies as he was born, in life, miraculously rescuing first a child from Sophy and her terrorists, and then returning to save the soul of the shabbiest character in the novel. This connection of spiritual with secular is central to the novel’s vision : evil and general “running-down” are a matter “of course” in contemporary life. Contemporary life is too debased and dispirited to redeem itself ; therefore a revitali­zing intrusion from the spirit-world which Matty seems to inhabit is essential. This intrusion, however, requires an awkward combi­nation of the methods of the first and the second parts of the novel. This is ambitiously attempted but it stretches the reader’s imagination uneasily between fable and realism.
VIII. “RITES OF PASSAGE” (1980)
Edmund Talbot and His Unsatisfactory Journal
Rites of Passage has the kind of unusual, isolated context successfully employed by Golding in most of his earlier novels, though Darkness Visible does not have this unusual context because its setting is London. In Rites of Passage the action takes place on a ship sailing to Australia. Confinement to a ship provides the novel with a separate world, a universe in little. The world of the ship is inhabited by “men at sea who live too close to each other and too close thereby to all that is monstrous under the sun and moon.” The narrative is further confined to the point of view of a man called Edmund Talbot, who is maintaining a journal in which he records all his experiences. Talbot, however, confesses that his maintaining a journal has its limitations. These limitations are dramatically illustrated by the journal’s decline from cheerful orderliness to confused uncertainty and persistent disparity with other versions of events recorded : for example, in Parson Colley’s letter to his sister. Talbot’s journal also reveals a foolish simplicity and a short-sighted conceit both of which make him incompetent to understand or communicate things “monstrous under the sun and moon.” Talbot is innocently unaware, for example, of the true nature of Parson Colley’s decline into dis­grace and death. Rites of Passage is a journey for reader and character into a less optimistic assessment of man’s nature. In the limitations of Talbot’s journal, Golding also illustrates how conventional assumptions interfere with the truth. Eventually, when Talbot becomes a little more mature in moral awareness, he admits that his letter of condolence to Colley’s sister “will be lies from beginning to end.”
Good and Evil Superintending Mankind and Its Affairs
This final, misleading letter recalls a similar lying version of a character’s death in Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness. Both in its general vision of “the darkness of man’s heart,” and especially in the sea-story of Rites of Passage, Golding’s novels often resemble those of Conrad. Golding, like Conrad, is concerned with the frailty of man’s morality, of man’s understanding, and of man’s control of self and environment. Golding asks what purpose philosophy and religion can serve in the face of the stormy winds and the rising waves. Golding is at his best when, like Conrad, he approaches such questions in distant settings, and shows men struggling to survive at moments when their imagi­nations are isolated from the support of society. Golding is a representative of the realities of our time, with his vision made more sharply challenging by the memories of Nazism and the German concentration camps. Although Golding has been accused of offering only a depressing view of the primary evil which he thinks to be ineradicable, yet Darkness Visible indicates “hope struggling with a natural pessimism. This novel shows the spirit of good as well as evil surrounding and superintending mankind and its confused affairs.
Note. Golding has written a novel called Close Quarters as a sequel to Rites of Passage. The sequel has only recently been published.

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