Уильям Голдинг. Повелитель мух (engl) icon

Уильям Голдинг. Повелитель мух (engl)

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The Coral

^ Island, published in 1857 in England, and Lord of the Flies occurs in Carl

Niemeyer's "The Coral Island Revisited," College English, 22 (January,

1961), 241-245. Reprinted in this volume, pp. 217-223.-Eds.

3. As an illustration of this argument, note Ralph's actions when the

boys attack Robert as the substitute pig, p. 106 and when Simon is killed as

the beast, p. 141.-Eds.

no doubt that the novel is a fable, a deliberate translation of a

proposition into the dramatized terms of art, and as usual we have to ask

ourselves how resourceful and complete the translation has been, how fully

the, thesis has been absorbed and rendered implicit in the tale as it is

told. A writer of fables will heat his story at the fire of his convictions,

but when he has finished, the story must glow apart, generating its own heat

from within. Golding himself provides a criterion for judgment here, for he

offers a striking example of how complete the translation of a statement

into plastic terms can be. Soon after their arrival the children develop an

irrational suspicion that there is a predatory beast at large on the island.

This has of course no real existence, as Piggy for one points out, but to

the littluns it is almost as tangible as their castles in the sand, and most

of the older boys are afraid they may be right. One night when all are

sleeping there is an air battle ten miles above the sea and a parachuted

man, already dead, comes drifting down through the darkness, to settle among

the rocks that crown the island's only mountain. There the corpse lies

unnoticed, rising and falling with the gusts of the wind, its harness

snagged on the bushes and its parachute distending and collapsing. When it

is discovered and the frightened boys mistake it for the beast, the sequence

is natural and convincing, yet the implicit statement is quite unmistakable

too. The incomprehensible threat which has hung over them is, so to speak,

identified and explained: a nameless figure who is Man himself, the boys'

own natures, the something that all humans have in common.

This is finely done and needs no further comment, but unhappily the

explicit comment has already been provided, in Simon's halting explanation

of the beast's identity: "What I mean is ... maybe it's only us." And a

little later we are told that "However Simon thought of the beast, there

rose before his inward sight the picture of a human at once heroic and

sick." This over-explicitness is my main criticism of what is in many ways a

work of real distinction, and for two reasons it appears to be a serious

one. In the first place the fault is precisely that which any fable is

likely to incur: the incomplete translation of its thesis into its story so

that much remains external and extrinsic, the teller's assertion rather than

the tale's enactment before our eyes. In the second place the fault is a

persistent one, and cannot easily be discounted or ignored. It appears in

expository annotations like this, when Ralph and Jack begin to quarrel:

The two boys faced each other. There was the brilliant world of

hunting, tactics, fierce exhilaration, skill; and there was the world of

longing and baffled commonsense.

Less tolerably, it obtrudes itself in almost everything- thought,

action, and hallucination-that concerns the clairvoyant Simon, the "batty"

boy who understands "mankind's essential illness," who knows that Ralph will

get back to where he came from, and who implausibly converses with the Lord

of the Flies. Some warrant is provided for this clairvoyance in Simon's

mysterious illness, but it is inadequate. The boy remains unconvincing in

himself, and his presence constitutes a standing invitation to the author to

avoid the trickiest problems of his method, by commenting too baldly on the

issues he has raised. Any writer of fables must find it hard to ignore an

invitation or this kind once it exists. Golding has not been able to ignore

it, and the blemishes that result impose some serious, though not decisive,

limitations on a fiery and disturbing story.



The urge to put things into categories seems to satisfy some deep human

need and in this matter at least, critics and historians of literature are

very human people indeed. A brief glance at the English Literature section

of any library catalogue will show what I mean. There we find literature

divided up into various lands of writings, and within the kinds we nave

historical periods, and within the periods we have groups or movements, and

within the groups individuals who write various kinds. . . . Now up to a

point of course this sort of classification serves a very useful purpose. We

need a map if we are going to do any exploring, and the fact that it is the

countryside we have come to enjoy, not the map, doesn't make the map any

less necessary. If we take out a map of The Novel we find, if it is a

general one, that it falls into three sections-the eighteenth-century novel,

the Victorian novel, and the modern novel. And these descriptions point not

simply to three centuries, but to decisive changes that have taken place

within the form of the novel. These changes are often due to historical

circumstances, and sometimes they can be described in terms of the ruling

ideas of the age or the literary expectations of the readers, out there are

other changes and shifts in fiction which seem to arise from the very nature

of the novel itself. A shift of this land may be seen in a useful

classification into "fables" and "fictions." It is a little

1. This essay appears as the Introduction to the "School Edition" of

^ Lord of the Flies published by Faber and Faber, Ltd., London, 1962, pp.

i-xii. It is reprinted here by permission of Faber and Faber and the


difficult to define this difference satisfactorily in the abstract, but

it is fairly easy to see what is meant in practice. When, for instance, D.

H. Lawrence wrote in one of his letters, "I am doing a novel which I have

never grasped. Damn its eyes, here I am at page 145 and I've no notion what

it's about . . . it's like a novel in a foreign language which I don't know

very well," he was almost certainly occupied in writing a fiction and not a

fable. In other words, a fiction is something which takes the form of an

exploration for the novelist, even if it lacks the very extreme position

which Lawrence describes; the concern is very much with trying to make clear

the individuality of a situation, of a person; for these reasons it is

extremely difficult to describe a fiction satisfactorily in abstract terms.

With a fable, on the other hand, the case is very different Here the writer

begins with a general idea-"the world is not the reasonable place we are led

to believe," "all power corrupts" -and seeks to translate it into fictional

terms. In this kind of writing the interest of the particular detail lies in

the way it points to the generalization behind it. It is generally very easy

to say what a fable is "about," because the writers whole purpose is to make

the reader respond to it in precisely that way. Clear examples of fiction in

the way I am using the word would be works like D. H. Lawrence's Sons and

^ Lovers or Emily Bronte's Withering Heights; clear examples of fable, Swift's

Gulliver's Travels or Orwell's Animal Farm. But these are extreme works and

most novels have elements of both. Oliver Twist, for instance, is certainly

a fiction in its portrayal of the intensely imagined criminal world; but it

also moves towards fable when ft describes the world of the poorhouse, and

the people who finally rescue Oliver from that world, because here Dickens

is moved to write primarily by abstract ideas, the educational hardships of

children, the wisdom of benevolence. You will notice I said that ^ Oliver

Twist "moves towards" fiction, "moves towards" fable, and in this kind of

alternation it is typical of many novels which lie between such extreme

examples as I mentioned above. Now when we turn to Mr. Golding's Lord of the

Flies we find that what is remarkable is that it is a fable and a fiction

simultaneously. And I want to devote the remainder of this Introduction to

developing that remark.

When we first begin to write and talk about Mr. Golding's novel, it is

the aspect of fable which occupies our attention. And this is very natural

because the book is a very satisfying one to talk about Mr. Golding, our

account might run, is examining what human nature is really like if we could

consider it apart from the mass of social detail which gives a recognizable

feature to our daily lives. That "really" is important and you may want to

argue about it, but Mr. Golding's assumption here is one that most of us

make at one time or another. "Of course," we say of someone, "he's not

really like that at all," and then we go on to construct an account which

assumes that a distorting film of circumstance hate come between us and the

man's "real self." What Mr. Golding has done in ^ Lord of the Flies is to

create a situation which will reveal in an extremely direct way this "real

self," and yet at the same time keep our sense of credibility, our sense of

the day-to-day world, lively and sharp. It is rather like performing a

delicate heart operation, but feeling that the sense of human gravity comes

not through the actual operation but through the external scene -the

green-robed figures, the arc light which casts no shadow, the sound of a car

in the street outside. And it was in Ballantyne's ^ Coral Island, a book

published in the middle of the last century, that Mr. Golding found the

suggestion for his "external scene." This is not a question of turning

Ballantyne inside out, so that where his boys are endlessly brave,

resourceful and Christian, Mr. Golding's are frightened, anarchic and

savage; rather Mr. Golding's adventure story is to point up in a forceful

and economic way the terrifying gap between the appearance and the reality.

We do not need to know ^ Coral Island to appreciate Lord of the Flies, but if

we do know it we will appreciate more vividly the power of Mr. Golding's

book. If we take Ralph's remark about "the darkness of man's heart" as

coming very close to the subject of the book, it is worth just remembering

that this book, published in 1954, was written in a world very different

from Ballantyne's, one which had seen within twenty years the systematic

destruction of the Jewish race, a world war revealing unnumbered atrocities

of what man had done to man, and in 1945 the mushroom cloud of the atomic

bomb which has come to dominate all our political and moral thinking.

Turning from these general considerations of Mr. Golding's fable to the

way it is actually worked out, we find the novel divided into three

sections. The first deals with the arrival of the boys on the island, the

assembly, the early decisions about what to do; the emphasis falls on the

paradisal landscape, the hope of rescue, and the pleasures of day-to-day

events. Everything within this part of the book is contained within law and

rule: the sense of the aweful and the forbidden is strong. Jack cannot at

first bring himself to kill a pig because of "the enormity of the knife

descending and cutting into living flesh; because of the unbearable blood."

Roger throws stones at Henry, but he throws to miss because "round the

squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and

the law." The world in this part of the book is the world of children's

games. The difference comes when there is no parental summons to bring these

games to an end. These games have to continue throughout the day, and

through the day that follows. And it is worth noting that Mr. Golding

creates his first sense of unease through something which is familiar to

every child in however protected a society-the waning of the light. It is

the dreams that usher in the beastie, the snake, the unidentifiable threat

to security.

The second part of the book could be said to begin when that threat

takes on physical reality, with the arrival of the dead airman. Immediately

the fear is crystallized, all the boys are now affected, discussion has

increasingly to give way to action. As the narrative increases in tempo, so

its implications enlarge. Ralph has appealed to the adult world for help,

"If only they could send us something grown-up ... a sign or something," and

the dead airman is shot down in flames over the island. Destruction is

everywhere; the boy's world is only a miniature version of the adult's. By

now the nature of the destroyer is becoming clearer; it is not a beastie or

snake but man's own nature. "What I mean is ... maybe it's only us," Simon's

insight is confined to himself and he has to pay the price of his own life

for trying to communicate it to others. Simon's death authenticates this

truth, and now that the fact of evil has actually been created on the

island, the airman is no longer necessary and his body vanishes in a high

wind and is carried out to sea.

The third part of the book, and the most terrible, explores the meaning

and consequence of this creation of evil. Complete moral anarchy is

unleashed by Simon's murder. The world of the game, which embodied in

however an elementary way, rule and order, is systematically destroyed,

because hardly anyone can now remember when things were otherwise. When the

destruction is complete, Mr. Golding suddenly restores "the external scene"

to us, not the paradisal world of the marooned boys, but our world. The

naval officer speaks, we realize with horror, our words, "the kid needed a

bath, a hair-cut, a nose wipe and a good deal of ointment." He carries our

emblems of power, the white drill, the epaulettes, the gilt-buttons, the

revolver, the trim cruiser. Our everyday sight has been restored to us, but

the experience of reading the book is to make us re-interpret what we see,

and say with Macbeth "mine eyes are made the fools o' the other senses."

If we are to look at ^ Lord of the Flies from the point of view of it

being a fable this is the kind of account we might give. And, as far as it

goes, it is a true account. The main weakness in discussing Lord of the

Flies is that we are too often inclined to leave our description at this

point. So we find a Christian being deeply moved by the book and arguing

that its greatness is tied up with the way in which the author brings home

to a modem reader the doctrine of Original Sin; or we find a humanist

finding the novel repellent precisely because it endorses what he feels to

be a dangerous myth; or again, on a different level, we find a Liberal

asserting the importance of the book because of its unwavering exposure or

the corruptions of power. Now whatever degree of truth we find in these

views, it is important to be dear that the quality or otherwise of Lord of

the Flies is not dependent upon any of them. Whether Mr. Golding has written

a good novel or not is not because of "the views" which may be deduced from

it, but because of his claim to be a novelist. And the function of the

novelist as Joseph Conrad once said is "by the power of the written word to

make you hear, to make you feel-it is, before all, to make you see." And it

is recognition of this that must take us back from Mr. Golding's fable,

however compelling, to his fiction. Earlier I suggested that these two

aspects occur simultaneously, so that in moving from one to the other, we

are not required to look at different parts of the novel, but at the same

thing from a different point of view.

Let us begin by looking at the coral island. We have mentioned the

careful literary reference to Ballantyne ("Like the Coral Island," the naval

officer remarks), the theological overtones with the constant paradisal

references, "flower and fruit grew together on the same tree," but all these

things matter only because Mr. Golding has imaginatively put the island

before us. The sun and the thunder come across to us as physical realities,

not because they have a symbolic part to play in the book, but because of

the novelist's superb resourcefulness of language. Consider how difficult it

is to write about a tropical island and avoid any hint of the travel poster

cliche or the latest documentary film about the South Seas. To see how the

difficulty can be overcome look at the following paragraph:

Strange things happened at midday. The glittering sea rose up, moved

apart in planes of blatant impossibility; the coral reef and the few,

stunted palms that clung to the more elevated parts would float up into the

sky, would quiver, be plucked apart, run like raindrops on a wire or be

repeated as in an odd succession of mirrors. Sometimes land loomed where

there was no land and flicked out like a bubble as the children watched, (p.


It is this kind of sensitivity to language, this effortless precision

of statement that makes the novel worth the most patient attention. And what

applies to the island applies to the characters also. As Jack gradually

loses his name so that at the end of the novel he is simply the Chief we

feel this terrible loss of identity coming over in his total inability to do

anything that is not instinctively gratifying. He begins to talk always in

the same way, to move with the same intent. But this is in final terrible

stages of the novel. If we turn back to the beginning of the novel we find

Mr. Golding catching perfectly a tone of voice, a particular rhythm of

speech. Ralph is talking to Piggy shortly after they have met:

"I could swim when I was five. Daddy taught me. He's a commander in the

Navy. When he gets leave he'll come and rescue us. What's your father?"

Piggy flushed suddenly.

"My dad's dead," he said quickly, "and my mum-"

He took off his glasses and looked vainly for something with which to

clean them.

"I used to live with my auntie. She kept a candy store. I used to get

ever so many candies. As many as I liked. When'll your dad rescue us?"

"Soon as he can." (p. 11.)

Notice how skillfully Mr. Golding has caught in that snatch of

dialogue, not only schoolboy speech rhythms,2 but also, quite

unobtrusively, the social difference between the two boys. "What's your

father?", "When'll your dad rescue us?" There are two continents of social

experience hinted at here. I draw attention to this passage simply to show

that in a trivial instance, in something that would never be quoted in any

account of "the importance" of the book, it is the gifts which are peculiar

to a novelist, "to make you hear, to make you feel . . . to make you see,"

that are being displayed.

Perhaps, however, we feel these gifts most unmistakably present not in

the way the landscape is presented to us, nor the characters, but rather in

the extraordinary momentum and power which drives the whole narrative

forward, so that one incident leads to another with an inevitability which

is awesome. A great deal of this power comes from Mr. Golding's careful

preparation for an incident: so that the full significance of a scene is

only gradually revealed. Consider, for instance, one of these. Early in the

book Ralph discovers the nickname of his companion with delight:

"Piggy! Piggy!"

Ralph danced out into the hot air of the beach and then returned as a

fighter plane, with wings swept back, and machine-gunned Piggy.

Time passes, games give way to hunting, but still the hunting can only

be talked about in terms of a game and when Jack describes his first kill,

it takes the form of a game:

"I cut the pig's throat---"

The twins, still sharing their identical grin, jumped up and ran round

each other. Then the rest joined in, making pig-dying noises and shouting.

2.In their notes for this edition the authors define all of the

schoolboy slang terms that are likely to confuse adult readers.- Eds.

"One for his nob!"

"Give him a fourpenny one!"

Then Maurice pretended to be the pig and ran squealing into the centre,

and the hunters, circling still, pretended to beat him. As they danced, they


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