WILLIAM GOLDING (1911-1993)
LIFE, WORKS, CRITIQUE
WILLIAM GOLDING’S LIFE AND HIS WORKS
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, Björn Kurtén 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...
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