Sir William Gerald Golding is one of the 20th century’s greatest novelists. He is best known for his novels Lord of the Flies and Rites of Passage. He was born in Cornwall, the son of a school master, William Gerald Golding, attended Marlborough Grammar School before going up to Brasenose College, Oxford, to study sciences. Against his parents’ wishes he change in his second year at university, to follow the course in English Literature.
However, Golding had always been interested in literature and had begun writing at the age of seven. On leaving he entered the teaching profession, where he remained until he enlisted in the Royal Navy at the start of the Second World War (1939-1945), during which he had a distinguished career, being promoted commander and seeing action which was shock him into questioning the horror of war. These experiences inform his writing, he was appalled at what human beings can do to one another, not only in terms of the Holocaust and other wartime atrocities, but also in their being innately evil.
When war was over Golding return to teaching, at Bishop Wordsworth School, and writing but his experience made him no longer believe in the innocence of human beings and he had come to believe that without the laws and social pressures that keep order in society, a dark and ruthless side of human nature emerges. The Lord of the Flies was published in 1954 and it was followed by The Inheritors in 1955 which overturned H. G. Wells’s Outline of History (1920) and depicted the extermination of Neanderthal man by Homo Sapiens.
Neanderthals are first portrayed compassionate and communal, but when they meet the more sophisticated Cro-Magnons, their tribe is doomed. The Finnish professor of paleontology, Bjorn Kurten has offered in his novel Dance of the Tiger (1978) the explanation, that the Neanderthals disappeared because they fell fatally in love with their black and beautiful Cro-Magnon neighbours. In The Inheritors there is no understanding or love between these two races. Pincher Martin published in 1956, is the story of a naval officer who faces a struggle for survival after his ship is torpedoed.
Like in Ambroce Bierce’s ‘Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge’, the protagonist imagines his survival and struggle against the sea and cold? Christopher believes he is on a rock island in Mid-Atlantic. The rock he clings is metaphorically analogous to his diseased tooth. The Free Fall (1959) was set in contemporary society. Sammy Mountjoy, the narrator, is an artist, who looks back over his past to find the crossroads of his life, and the moment he lost his freedom. Golding resigned in 1961 from teaching and devoted himself entirely to writing.
He lived quietly in Corwall, gaining the reputation of a mildly eccentric and reclusive person. In 1965 he received the honorary designation Commander of the British Empire (CBE) and in 1988 he was knighted. The Spire (1964), which shared some motifs with Iris Murdoch’s novel The Bell (1958), concerned the construction of a cathedral spire. Jocelin, a medieval dean, has decided to erect a 400-foot spire to the top of the cathedral before his death. But its construction causes sacrifice of others, treachery, and murder; the Dean’s own faith is tested.
From this novel Golding’s work developed into three directions: novels dealing with contemporary society without mythical substructure, the metaphysical novels in which the theme of fall from innocence into guilt was central, and sea novels imitating an 18th-century style. Golding also used in his works ideas familiar from science fiction, such as the origin of man, nuclear holocaust, and highly advanced inventions. In the play The Brass Butterfly (1958), based on Golding’s short story ‘Envoy Extraordinary’, an Greek inventor Phanocles tries to get his steam engine, gun, pressure-cooker, and printing press accepted by the Roman emperor.
He went on to write three short novels under the title The Scorpion God (1971) and various essays and autobiographical pieces. In 1980 he won the Booker Prize for his novel Rites of Passage, the first volume of a trilogy, which continued which Close Quarters (1987) and his last published novel, Fire Down Below (1989). In 1983 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature and the Nobel Foundation cited:”his novels which, with the perspicuity of realistic narrative art and the diversity and universality of myth, illuminate the human condition in the world of today”.
He lived most of his life in Wiltshire with his wife and two children and he died in 1993. Two important elements of Golding’s life (1991-1993) and experience are powerfully reflected in Lord of the Flies, his pessimism after the end of the Second World War and his insight drawn from his life as a schoolmaster, into the way children behave and function. Historically, the post-war was one of hope and optimism, but the events, which Golding had witnessed, did not allow him to see things so simplistically. The war alone was not what appalled him, but what he had learnt of the natural and original-sinfulness of mankind did.
It was the evil seen daily as commonplace and repeated by events it was possible to read in any newspaper, which, he asserted were the matter of Lord of the Flies. The war could be regarded an already present evil. People possessed this trait in a fundamental and permanent fashion that could emerge at any time and under any conditions. It was not just adults who had the capacity for brutality such as that seen in the German labour camps. Golding isolates young children on the island in Lord of the Flies and allows us to see them acting with as much barbarism as is revealed in the adult world.
They are in essence innocent but nevertheless budding adults and potentially evil and sadistic. It is said that children can be cruel and in Lord of the Flies we stark examples of their cruelty. His interests were present in his writings to a consider degree. He was keen and adventurous sailor, an amateur archaeologist and had a great love of classical Greek, which he taught himself to read. Several critics have noted that Golding’s harsh austere novels share something of the spirit generated by Greek tragedy. Golding’s war service, his knowledge of small boys, his love of sailing are clearly of importance to any understanding oh his work.
Golding’s first novel is still his best-known work, and probably always will be, while The Inheritors is both his own favourite among his novels and the one with which readers most commonly experience difficulty. These two novels between them address issues such as rationalism, evil evolution and religion, themes that reappears throughout Golding’s career. Lord of The Flies is one of the best books of the post-war years. A group of boys, the oldest whom is 12 and the youngest 6, are marooned on a desert island and almost immediately a battles for supremacy takes place among the principal characters. Violence and death follow.
Lord of the Flies can be seen as a dystopian (anti-Utopian) novel linked with a number of important novels like: George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four or Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange. Many novels deal with similar themes to Lord of the Flies, as Golding was addressing universal problems. Animal farm by George Orwell is a satirical sketch of Comunism at the time, as practiced on a farm taken over by its own animal. Golding drew on a tradition of adventure stories, many of which he had read when was a boy. A well known example is Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, involves Crusoe, the central character being wrecked on a desert island.
He is totally alone until a native man Friday arrives. Crusoe’s despair at his loneliness is reminiscent of Ralph’s homesickness. Contemporary critics use the term ‘ intertextuality ’ to designate the various relationships that a given text may have with another text, and Lord of the Flies is a ‘rewriting’ of R. M. Ballantyne’s The Coral Island. In ‘Fable’, Golding writes: ‘It is worth looking for a moment at the great original of boys on an island. This is The Coral Island, published a century ago at the height of Victorian smugness, ignorance and prosperity ’.
Ballantyne’s book is optimistic in an imperialist Victorian manner. Evil lies firmly outside the English schoolboys in this book and is made manifest by savage black cannibals. In Lord of the Flies Golding has one of the boy say: ‘After all, we’re not savages. We’re English; and English are best at everything. ’ But throughout the novel, Golding overturns Ballantyne’s optimistic portrait, which equates English with good and foreign with evil, and suggests that evil is more likely to reside within humanity, including the English, and the external evil is a protection of an inner evil.
In doing this Golding is offering a critique of Victorian Imperialism. In Lord of the Flies Golding uses the same names for his central characters as Ballantyne does for his trio of brave, clean, young Englishmen, which assists the comparison and eventual subversion of the beliefs central to Ballantyne’s book. Golding’s characters are also used to portray sharply differing points o view on the nature of evil and the means of placating this powerful force.
For Piggy, there is no such thing as evil, it is just people behaving irrationally, for Jack, evil resides outside humanity and must be placated by various forms of sacrifice; and for Simon evil expresses itself in the words of the Lord of the Flies: evil is inside humanity. Golding informs his readers immediately that the context of his characters lives is specifically Christian : ‘I ought to be chief said Jack with simple arrogance ‘because I’m chapter chorister and head boy’’. The choir is a specifically religious institution and yet it is Jack and his hunters who become the most cruel and violent of all the boys on the island.
In Lord of the flies there is an adumbration of the disturbing connection between religion, violence and blood sacrifice that Golding examines in close detail throughout the first phase of his career, and which is realized most powerfully in The Spire . That Lord of the Flies moves us forward is something few readers would deny. It is as fine an adventure story as any published since the war, and yet Golding’s ability to employ language which both provides narrative impetus and also evokes profounder and more theological implication.
The novel is spare, deliberate in its intentions; and Golding has little hesitation in referring to it as a ‘fable’. Lord of the Flies is economical, so that the plane crash is not only a plausible device to isolate boys, but also essential as a commentary on the world outside the island. In his essays, The Hot Gates there is a piece about Lord of the Flies, called ‘Fable’, in which he says, ‘before the Second World War I believed in the perfectibility of social man; that a correct structure of society would produce goodwill; and that therefore you could remove all social ills by a reorganisation of society.
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’. It is no accident that Jack and his choir come from a particularly rigid school background. Choir schools are by their nature elitist probably every bit as much as the more severe public or private schools. The organisation the boys were most familiar with would have been hierarchical, ordered and strict. Beatings, by boys and by masters, would have been commonplace.
Without that strict regime and following such past conditioning it is perhaps not surprising that Jack’s deeper self is released in the way we witness. Not all of the boys are from this culture, however, but the manner and the tone of the boys is common in some marked respects. Another point of interest is Golding’s choice of an island. By its nature it is isolated, there is no outside influence and nothing to distract the boys from their true natures. The island is self-sufficient and self-contained. It is a tropical Garden of Eden, complete serpent.
The Lord of the Flies is an examination not of the idiosyncratic nature of small boys, but of the essential nature of humanity itself, the heart of darkness. The island becomes a microcosm of the adult world, which is also destroying itself. Bewilder and frightened, the children yearn for a sign from the adult world but the sign is sent fraught with meaning, possessing a symbolic power, which persist throughout the novel. The dead parachutist is himself a scapegoat, a victim of the war which rages as the adult’s madness increases on a scale microcosmically reflected by the boys on the island.
In his essay Crabbed Youth and Age, Golding refers to the millions of young men who were slaughtered during the First World War as the ‘pure and blameless, the eternally sacrificed’. The dead parachutist, too, is invested with some of this eternal, mythic quality, and yet in this most economical novels he also gives the children the chance to externalise their apprehension of evil . It is baleful, rotting presence which allows them to ignore Simon’s pregnant suggestion ‘What I mean is…maybe it’s only us’. Golding writes in another of his essays, ‘Custodians of the Real’: ‘ Inside a fairy tale or out of it, a severed head is powerful affair’.
This comment is dramatised in Lord of the Flies when the hunters place the severed head of pig in the clearing. To the hunters this suffering is one of propitiation; they have projected evil outside themselves. But Simon realizes that the severed head is a part of humanity: ‘ At last Simon gave up and looked back; saw the white teeth and dim eyes, the blood and his gaze was held by that ancient, inescapable recognition’. When Simon attempts to communicate his knowledge that the parachutist is a pathetic victim of a larger war and that the evil is internal, he is torn to pieces by Jack’s tribe.
Similarity, when Piggy tries to reason with the boys he is killed Golding constructs a complex metaphorical system around Piggy; the conch shell and his glasses being paramount. For Piggy who has intelligence, but no intuitive powers, the conch is order and he fails to realize that the conch in itself is nothing, a literally hollow shell, unless the others agree on its symbolic powers. When Jack’s tribe steal his glasses to make fire and piggy stands among them, blind, fat and trembling, his words, almost his last, are genuinely tragic in their uncomprehending innocence: ‘I tell you, I got the conch’.
Completely alone Ralph runs for his life. He is crying for mercy, on the point of being murdered, when a naval officer appears to save him. Golding himself has described the ending as a ‘gimmick’. As a technique, it is clearly indebted to the Greek concept of the ‘deus ex machina’, a supernatural intervention, and in Lord of the Flies the effect of his shift in perspective is considerable. Most importantly it reminds the readers that the characters we have been seeing as hunters and killers are only children, while the officer’s patronizing air alerts us to the fact that precisely the same horrors are being re-enacted in the adult world.
Ralph is blinded by tears, his bitter understanding of the evil that resides within humanity both anticipates what is to be a consistent theme of Golding’s novels and also provides a darkly ironic counterpoint to the officer’s helpful comment: ‘I know. Jolly good show. Like The Coral Island’. Taken at value, Lord of the Flies is a simple tale. Golding himself regarded it as a modern fable, which can be enjoyed on more complex levels. One way to appreciate this is by exploring some of the themes of the book, to throw light on what William Golding wanted to say and on the times he was writing in.
Themes and images in Lord of the Flies Cold war paranoia The first use of atomic weapon in war – at Hiroshima in Japan on 6 August 1945, undetermined many people’s assumption about life. Suddenly it seemed possible for the whole of civilisation to be destroyed by a single conflict. This was not a practical problem until 1959, when the Soviet Union exploded its first A-bomb and the Cold war began in earnest. This was never an open war, although numerous conflicts, such as Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan, were fought in its name.
Rather it was an ideological battle in which anyone suspected of being the enemy would be attacked. Through the late forties and early fifties the infamous McCarthy ‘witch-hunts’ were conducted in America. Many respected and influential people were destroyed by (often false) accusations that they were Communists. This paranoia imagining tha good, patriotic citizen were traitor is deeply reminiscent of Jack and of Hitler’s Germany. In this context Golding wrote Lord of the Flies . A great deal of its stark confrontation, Jack against Ralph, savages against the conch group, even evil against good.
More specifically, the boys have been stranded by the Cold War turning into a real war. Their plane has presumably been shot down and the ‘beast’ is a pilot who has ejected from his warplane. On top of this, Golding was impressed by the Existentialist philosophy of writers such as Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre and Samuel Beckett. Existentialism claimed that God did not exist and that individuals were solely responsible for their own actions. So if you kill someone, as the savage mob does Simon. Ralph as the force for good, tries to do this after Simon’s death: ‘That was murder’, but even he fails.
Golding seems to be making several related points. He is saying that the world we know can be destroyed by atomic weapons. This island itself can be seen as a metaphor for the earth after a nuclear holocaust. Also he is showing that the response to the Cold War an hysterical and irrational desire to be on one side or the other, savage or conch can only bring this nuclear disaster closer. Golding provides a way forward, through individuals taking responsibility for themselves and not being manipulated by the mob mentality.
If this had happened on the island, Piggy and Simon would both be alive when the naval officer arrives, and Ralph would probably still be chief, exercising his influence for good. Good and evil The battle between good and evil is a central theme of Lord of the Flies. It appears in many conflicts between the conch group and the savages, between the boys and the terrifying ‘beast’ and between rescue from passing ship and imprisonment on the increasingly insane island. Golding gives the reader a warning about the power of evil that if the good in people is not fostered then evil will take place.
The human urge to destroy will be unleashed and in the modern age there seem to be no limits to the harm this can do. In this sense, Lord of the Flies can be seen as a cautionary tale, advocating change before it is too late. Law and order The boys have come from a society in which orderliness is the norm and they attempt to continue this when they first arrive on the island. Very quickly the conch comes to symbolise the values of this previous existence. The boys cannot talk at meetings unless they are holding the conch, and are thus forced to treat whoever is speaking with respect.
This means that Piggy in many ways a natural victim is able to air intelligent thoughts that lead to improvements in the boys’ lives. The other symbol associated with Piggy, his glasses, exposes a different side f law and order on the island. Rightfully they belong to Piggy, who needs them to see properly. Jack at school a figure of authority and order as head of the choir, first punching him and breaking a lens then stealing the pair to start fires. In doing so, he challenges the law and order that has kept life on the island reasonable under Ralph.
When the boys no longer accept law and order after this, Ralph is powerless and darker, more evil forces take over. The island is like a laboratory in which Golding can analyse the tension that exist within a school. By removing the adults, he sets free the impulses and desires of the schoolboys and almost allows them to run their full course. So Jack and Piggy’s sensible plans, then a dictator and finally a murdered. Piggy on the other hand is a permanent victim of Jack’s bullying and is killed. Clearly these disasters could have been prevented by the normal orderliness of school life. Fear and the beast
The beast represents the way in which people make something outside of themselves evil, so that they can maintain an image of themselves as good. This allows them to avoid the responsibility of looking carefully inside themselves it allows them to avoid self-knowledge. Golding uses the boys’s imagination, daydreams and nightmares to show us their fears and desires. These things illuminate the sense of loss in the children, and their need for security. The snake image is traditionally symbolic of evil and it is appropriate forGolding’s argument that evil comes from within. The beast gives the boys’ fear something to focus.
There are several kinds of fear depicted in the novel, aart from the obious physical fear of the rapped piglet at the start and the trapped Ralph at the end. Fear is often associated with guilt. There is no fear of the truth as when the boys do not at first want to accept that they may never be rescued. There is the spiritual fear of the beast that is themselves, which is why they will not listen to Simon. Defects exists in any human society and they are usually caused by defects in human nature, what Golding sees as the constant but undeveloped evil resident withing all humankind.
This is the best. What happens in the novel is an example of how, in the right set of circumstances, the beast will reveal itself. Nature Golding sets his novel on an unspoiled island which effectively isolates his characters from the world. He creates a microcosm( a mini-world) and by making us look closely at the nature of his microcosm he makes us consider the real ‘whole’ world and the condition of humankind. The sea represents the vast distance between the boys and the civilisation from which they are cut off. The contrast between the sea on one side of the island and the sea are cut off.
The contrast between the sea on one side of the island and the sea on the other side, echoes the divison between the two groups of boys. Similarly, the storm creates a background to the increasing tension and exploding with the moods and feelings of man is a common device in literature. It a sometimes known as ‘pathetic fallacy’ which is the crediting of nature or inanimate objects with human emotions. Golding’s description of the vegetation and nature life on the island, work in two levels: they reinforce mood and reflect the continuing beauty in nature.
Nature is shown as balanced and unified, in contrast with the division appearing among the boys. Food is natural resource of the island but has painful repercussion: fruit gives the boys diarrhoea and pig meat comes to symbolise power. Interestingly the boys make little use of the sea as a source of food. Images of heat are also frequent. Heat is the first force to change the boys’ usual behavior. It appears in two different forms: natural heat like the temperature of the island and the heat of fire. Both forms are often used t emphasise the emotional, ‘primeval’ heat in certain characters.
Savagery Play and ‘fun’results from the boys’ pleasure in having their own island. It is a daytime escape from night-time fears for the littluns. For the older boys, play is distorted into a sinister, devilish activity. Fun develops into irresponsibility, then into torture and murder. One of the movements traceable through the novel is in the choir, who change to hunters, to a tribe, to savages. This downward path is sometimes known as atavism. Each experience of killing changes the boys and widens the gap between the hunters and those who cling to civilised values.
The boys eventually descend to a primitive level of savagery ruled by an arrogant chief. At this stage they are no longer recognisable physically or mentally, as the boys described at the start of the novel. Golding leaves us to imagine what kind of adults they might become after their experience on the island. The first clear sign of the emergence of the savage is the mask. At first the mask is intended as camouflage, but it generates a strange and primitive freedom in the wearer. The mask contributes to the generation of the tribe. ‘Tribe’ is the word used by Jack to describe his band of followers.
At first the word suggested an element of play but the tribe quickly develops into a savage band of killers. Rituals offer security and reassurance and are used by societies to make events fell more important and permanent, whether there are the rituals of joining a gang, of a marriage service, or those of the church. Ritual emerges as a powerful force on the island. Through rituals of chant dance and superstition, the tribe is held together and commits atrocities. The chant of the hunters is a ritual which is repeated, growing in fierceness on each occasion.
The most extreme violence of the chant coincides with the breaking of the last barriers of the last barriers of civilised behaviour, when Simon is murdered. One way of looking at this novel is to consider it as being structured around six hunts. Each successful hunt brings the boys closer structured around six hunts. Each successful hunt brings the boys closer to the savage side of human nature. The pig is the object of the hunt, as a source of food. But the pig-hunt becomes a symbol of the decline of civilised values and the loss of innocence.
As Lord of the Flies , the sow’s head illustrates the superstitious, ritualistic level to which the tribe of hunters has sunk. Crowd mentality At the start of the novel, we find a natural group already formed when Jack appears at the head of the choir. This group is disciplined, a fact, which is of a great help in hunting pigs, when good organisation is of paramount importance. The climax of this crowd mentality comes when Simon returns with news that the ‘beast’ is actually a dead pilot. He stumbles into the midst of the near-hysterical savages during a night-time thunderstorm, and is himself taken to be ‘beast’.
The mob, including Ralph, ‘leapt on the beast, screamed, struck, bit, tore. There were no words, and no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws’. In a mob, everyday life loses its meaning. Individuals are swallowed up and the mob seeks out those who are weak or simply outsiders to vent its fury on. There have been pogroms, where mobs kill members of minority groups throughout European history, with Jews by far the most frequent victims. Foremost in Golding’s mind however, when describing mob behaviour was Nazi Germany. Jack in many ways echoes Hitler.
At first charismatic and seeming to offer easy solution to difficult situations, both learnt to use the fury of the mob against their enemies. Hitler turned mobs against Communism, Jews and indeed, may of his own followers to eliminate opponents and terrify everyone else. Jack likewise kills and intimidates until complete control is almost in his hands. In William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, Ralph asks Piggy, “[W]hat makes things break up like they do? ” (127). It is a question that has given rise to much speculation in critical circles. What causes the societal breakdown on the island in Lord of the Flies?
Golding himself has said the cause is nothing more than the inherent evil of man; no matter how well-intentioned he is, and no matter how reasonable a government he erects, man will never be able to permanently contain the beast within. But other critics have offered alternative explanations, most of which are based on the assumption that the beast can, in fact, be contained. Bernard F. Dick argues that the suppression of this natural, bestial side of man results in its unhealthy eruption and the consequent societal breakdown. John F. Fitzgerald and John R.
Kayser suggest that, in addition to original sin, society’s failure to reconcile reason with mystery causes the breakdown. Finally, Kathleen Woodward contends that when the beast is not suppressed strictly enough, when law and order is lax, evil erupts. Although we need not automatically accept Golding’s explanation of his own text, when alternative views fail to provide an appropriate rationale, it is not unreasonable to assume the author’s viewpoint. Golding’s own explanation for the breakdown of civilization in Lord of the Flies was delivered in a lecture given in 1962 at the University of California at Los Angeles.
He describes the breakdown as resulting from nothing more complex than the inherent evil of man: “So the boys try to construct a civilization on the island; but it breaks down in blood and terror because the boys are suffering from the terrible disease of being human” (Golding, “Lord of the Flies as Fable” 42). For Golding, the structure of a society is not responsible for the evil that erupts, or, at least, it is responsible only insofar as the society reflects the nature of the fallen man. The shape of the society the boys create is “conditioned by their diseased, their fallen nature” (Golding, “Fable” 41).
Indeed, Golding claims to have intentionally avoided inserting some things into the novel that might have led readers to conclude that the society itself, rather than the fallen man, is responsible for the breakdown: ‘The boys were below the age of overt sex, for I did not want to complicate the issue with that relative triviality. They did not have to fight for survival, for I did not want a Marxist exegesis. If disaster came, it was not to come through the exploitation of one class by another. It was to rise, simply and solely out of the nature of the brute. (Golding, Fable 42) Golding employs a relatively straightforward writing style in Lord of the Flies, one that avoids highly poetic language, lengthy description, and philosophical interludes. Much of the novel is allegorical, meaning that the characters and objects in the novel are infused with symbolic significance that conveys the novel’s central themes and ideas. In portraying the various ways in which the boys on the island adapt to their new surroundings and react to their new freedom, Golding explores the broad spectrum of ways in which humans respond to stress, change, and tension.
Lord of the Flies has attracted an immense amount of both favourable and unfavourable criticism. Most vehement among the latter critics are Kenneth Rexroth, whose essay in the Atlantic Monthly castigated the author for having written a typical “rigged” “thesis novel” whose characters “never come alive as real boys. ” In the same camp is Martin Green (1960), who criticizes Golding’s early works, including Lord of the Flies, as “not importantly original in thought or feeling. ” Otherwise admiring critics like James R.
Baker have claimed that the popularity of the book peaked by the end of the 1960s because of that decade’s naive view of humanity and rejection of original sin. Among critics who admire Lord of the Flies, there is remarkable disagreement about the book’s influences, genre, significant characters, and theme, not to mention the general philosophy of the author. Frank Kermode’s early essay, excerpts of which appear in Baker & Ziegler’s casebook edition of the novel, examines R. M. Ballantyne’s Victorian boys’ adventure story The Coral Island as Golding’s primary influence.
He interprets Golding’s book as a powerful story, capable of many interpretations, precisely because of the author’s “mythopoeic power to transcend” his own allegorical “programme. ” Bernard F. Dick, while acknowledging The Coral Island’s influence, builds on Kermode’s observation that the book’s strength is grounded in its mythic level by tracing the influence of the Greek dramatists, especially Euripides, whose play The Bacchae Golding himself acknowledged as an important source of his thinking.
Dick notes that The Bacchae and Lord of the Flies both “portray a bipolar society in which the Apollonian [represented by Ralph] refuses or is unable to assimilate the Dionysian [represented by the hunters]. ” Dick finds fault with the author’s having profound thoughts come out of the mouths of children, especially Simon. The critic recognizes, however, that this flaw grew out of Golding’s decision to model his characters on the children in Coral Island. Nevertheless Dick is an overall admirer of Golding’s craft in producing a work whose “foundation is mythic” yet which is perhaps most accurately called a “serious parody. Using a psychoanalytic approach to the novel, Claire Rosenfield (1961) finds yet another source for Golding’s ideas in psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s Totem and Taboo.
Golding claimed in an interview that he had read “absolutely no Freud. ” Even so, Rosenfield’s close reading argues that Golding must have been influenced, directly or indirectly, by Freudian ideas. Rosenfield reminds us that according to Freud, gods and devils are basically human processes projected into the outer world. Specifically, “Ralph is a projection of man’s good impulses from which we derive the authority figures — whether od, king, or father. Jack becomes an externalization of the evil instinctual forces of the unconscious. ” Piggy, whose knowledge of science, thinning hair, and respect for adults make him the most adultlike child on the island, is both a father figure and a symbol of the progressive degeneration of the boys from adults to animalistic savages. The abundance of possible critical stances on Lord of the Flies is summarized by Patrick Reilly in his chapter “The Strife of Critics” from his study “Lord of the Flies “: Fathers and Sons.
Reilly notes that the book “has been read as a moral fable of personal disintegration, as a social fable of social regression, as a religious fable of the fall of man. ” One critic is sure that civilization is victorious in the book, while another scoffs at the very idea that the book ends happily. Reilly himself puts Golding’s work squarely in the tradition of the “dark epiphany” as used in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Both authors work under the notion that man is so thoroughly corrupted that his redemption as a species is hopeless, however gallant and inspirational individual attempts may be.
Thus the reader of Golding at the end of book is left wondering how, if the world has been destroyed by atomic war, the captain and his ship will be rescued after he has rescued the boys. Reilly, however, does find hope in the figure of Simon, whose slow death ennobles him as a “hero, saint, martyr,” in contrast to Piggy’s quick dispatch and equally sudden disappearance. Thus the darkness within man as a whole in the story is balanced by the “brightness within” individual hearts, and Reilly concludes that “if we cannot be certain of salvation, perhaps it is enough to sustain us if we know that the darkness need not prevail. Golding ‘immense feeling of freedom’ has its downside. Suddenly finding his days empty, after sixteen years of schoolteaching, gave limitless scope for perfectionism and self-doubt, and The Spire had a more tormented birth than any of his previous novels. The three years between mid-1961, when it was first conceived as a ‘funny’ short story, to the publication in April 1964 of what Rebecca West in The Sunday Telegraph greeted as a ‘superb tragedy’, were fraught with reconsideration, exasperation and near despair. Many people have interpreted Lord of the Flies as a work on moral philosophy.
The environment of the island, a paradise with food, water, and all the necessities, is a metaphor for the Garden of Eden. The first appearance of the “beastie” is in a form reminiscent of a serpent, as which evil appears in the Book of Genesis. One of the major themes of the book, on the very nature of evil, is brought to a head in a scene which Simon holds with the head of the pig, which is known as “The Lord of the Flies” (a literal translation of the Hebrew name of Ba’alzevuv, or Beelzebub, which is a powerful demon in hell, sometimes believed to be the devil himself).
The conversation held also points to Simon as the character representing religion and good will in the novel, which is reminiscent of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Some Christian readers allude the British Naval officers’ rescue of the boys as the second coming of Christ (Bible story in Revelation). The Lord of the Flies in the end reveals that evil and the terror of the “beastie” is not an external threat, but an inborn evil with the boys themselves. Others have looked at the novel as a work on political philosophy.
The stranding of the boys, without any adult supervision, represents a clean slate upon which they have the power to build a small society without reference to any past authorities (past governments, religion, etc. ). The abundance of food and water and all the necessities sets the stage for a utopia, or perfect society. The actions of the boys demonstrate the spectrum of governments, with Ralph and Piggy representing democratic ideals while Jack represents more authoritarian systems. Another analogy compares the three principal characters to the three Archangels of the Old Testament.
Ralph equates to St Michael, the general of the Armies of the Lord; Jack to Lucifer, the fallen angel who takes a hoard of lesser angels with him turning them into demons opposed to God in the process; and Piggy to Gabriel, whose trumpet call announces Judgement Day. Golding continues to fascinate . His work attracts critics like moths to a flame and provides the basis for theses, articles and books. But up to now critical approaches to the novel remained very conservative on the novels have remained very conservative.
There are hardly any new studies which take account of current developments in literary theory. Yet without new perspectives on the novels a saturation point must be reached, there must be a ceiling of meaning for criticism employing concepts such as ‘fable’, ‘myth’, ‘source’ and ‘analogues’. William Golding extended the formal boundaries of fiction and made a significant contribution to England’s literature. In its extraordinary control and ingenious use of narrative perspective Golding’s work made his readers ‘see’.