William Golding (1911-1993)

They were both red in the face and found looking at each other difficult. Ralph rolled on his stomach and began to play with the grass.

"If it rains like when we dropped in we'll need shelters all right. And then another thing. We need shelters because of the--"

He paused for a moment and they pushed their anger away. Then he went on with the safe, changed subject.

"You've noticed, haven't you?"

Jack put down his spear and squatted.

"Noticed what?"

"Well. They're frightened."

He rolled over and peered into Jack's fierce, dirty face.

"I mean the way things are. They dream. You can hear 'em. Have you been awake at night?"

Jack shook his head.

"They talk and scream. The littluns. Even some of the others. As if--"

"As if it wasn't a good island."

Astonished at the interruption, they looked up at Simon's serious face.

"As if," said Simon, "the beastie, the beastie or the snake-thing was real. Remember?"

--from Lord of the Flies

William Gerald Golding, b. Cornwall, Sept. 19, 1911 [d. 1993], is a prominent English novelist, an essayist and poet, and winner of the 1983 Nobel Prize for literature. Golding's often allegorical fiction makes broad use of allusions to classical literature, mythology, and Christian symbolism. Although no distinct thread unites his novels and his technique varies, Golding deals principally with evil and emerges with what has been characterized as a kind of dark optimism.

Golding's first novel, Lord of the Flies (1954; film, 1963), introduced one of the recurrent themes of his fiction--the conflict between humanity's innate barbarism and the civilizing influence of reason. The Inheritors (1955) reaches into prehistory, advancing the thesis that humankind's evolutionary ancestors, "the fire-builders," triumphed over a gentler race as much by violence and deceit as by natural superiority. In Pincher Martin (1956) and Free Fall (1959), Golding explores fundamental problems of existence, such as survival and human freedom, using dreamlike narratives and flashbacks. The Spire (1964) is an allegory concerning the hero's obsessive determination to build a great cathedral spire regardless of the consequences. Golding's later novels have not won the praise his earlier works achieved. They include Darkness Visible (1979) and the historical trilogy Rites of Passage (1981), Close Quarters (1987), and Fire Down Below (1989).

Golding studied English literature and philosophy at Oxford, served in the Royal Navy during World War II, and has been a schoolmaster and lecturer. In addition to his novels, he has published a play, The Brass Butterfly (1958); a book of verse, Poems (1934); and the essay collections The Hot Gates (1965) and A Moving Target (1982).

Bibliography: Baker, J.R., ed., Critical Essays on William Golding (1988); Biles, Jack I., and Evans, Robert O., eds., William Golding: Some Critical Considerations (1978); Boyd, S.J., The Novels of William Golding (1988); Carey, John, ed., William Golding: The Man and His Books (1987); Dick, Bernard F., William Golding, rev. ed. (1987); Johnston, Arnold, Of Earth and Darkness: The Novels of William Golding (1980); Kinkead-Weeks, Mark, and Gregor, Ian, William Golding: A Critical Study, 2d ed. (1984); Redpath, Philip, William Golding: A Structural Reading of His Fiction (1986); Tiger, Virginia, William Golding (1974).

Text Copyright © 1993 Grolier Incorporated

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