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William Golding

Born 19 September 1911(1911-09-19)
St. Columb Minor, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
Died 19 June 1993 (aged 81)
Perranarworthal, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
Occupation Writer
Nationality British
Genres Survivalist fiction, robinsonade, adventure, sea story, essay, historical fiction, stageplay, poetry
Notable work(s) Lord of the Flies
Notable award(s) Nobel Prize in Literature

Sir William Gerald Golding (19 September 1911 – 19 June 1993) was a British novelist, poet, playwright and Nobel Prize for Literature laureate best known for his novel Lord of the Flies. He was also awarded the Booker Prize for literature in 1980, for his novel Rites of Passage, the first book of the trilogy To the Ends of the Earth.




Early life

William Golding was born in his grandmother's house, 47 Mountwise, St Columb Minor, Cornwall[1] and he spent many childhood holidays there. He grew up at his family home in Marlborough, Wiltshire, where his father (Alec Golding) was a science master at Marlborough Grammar School (1905 to retirement). Alec Golding was a socialist with a strong commitment to scientific rationalism, and the young Golding and his elder brother Joseph attended the school where his father taught.[2] His mother, Mildred, kept house at 29, The Green, Marlborough, and supported the moderate campaigners for female suffrage. In 1930 Golding went to Oxford University as an undergraduate at Brasenose College, where he read Natural Sciences for two years before transferring to English Literature.

Golding's biographer John Carey claimed in 2009 that Golding admits in a diary to attempted rape while he was an undergraduate[3]. The victim, whose name was Dora, was known to Golding from when she was 13 and he three years older; the attempted rape occurred two years later, when Golding was home from his first year at Oxford.[3] Following the attempted rape, the pair met again two years later at which point, according to reports, they consummated their relationship.[3] Carey attests that Golding was ashamed of his relationship with Dora, which he - Golding - considered demonstrative of his own "monstrous"[3] character. Carey also relates that Dora achieved a form of revenge, by persuading Golding's father to spy on the pair having sex in the open air: "She wanted to show [Alec Golding] that his two sons were not exemplary[3].

Golding took his B.A. (Hons) Second Class in the summer of 1934, and later that year his first book, Poems, was published in London by Macmillan & Co, through the help of his Oxford friend, the anthroposophist Adam Bittleston. Golding was an avid animal rights activist.

Marriage and family

Golding married Ann Brookfield on 30 September 1939 and they had two children, Judy and David.[1]

War service

During World War II, Golding fought in the Royal Navy and was briefly involved in the pursuit and sinking of Germany's mightiest battleship, the Bismarck. He also participated in the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, commanding a landing ship that fired salvoes of rockets onto the beaches, and then in a naval action at Walcheren in which 23 out of 24 assault craft were sunk.[4] At the war's end he returned to teaching and writing.[1]


In 1985 Golding and his wife moved to Tullimaar House at Perranarworthal, near Truro, Cornwall, where he died of heart failure, 8 years later, on 19 June 1993. He was buried in the village churchyard at Bowerchalke, South Wiltshire (near the Hampshire and Dorset county boundaries). He left the draft of a novel, The Double Tongue, set in ancient Delphi, which was published posthumously.[5][6]


Writing success

In September 1953 Golding sent a manuscript to Faber & Faber of London. Initially rejected by a reader there, the book was championed by Charles Monteith, then a new editor at the firm. He asked for various cuts in the text and the novel was published in September 1954 as Lord of the Flies. It was shortly followed by other novels, including The Inheritors, Pincher Martin and Free Fall.

Publishing success made it possible for Golding to resign his teaching post at Bishop Wordsworth's School in 1961, and he spent that academic year in the United States as writer-in-residence at Hollins College near Roanoke, Virginia. Having moved in 1958 from Salisbury to nearby Bowerchalke, he met his fellow villager and walking companion James Lovelock. The two discussed Lovelock's hypothesis that the living matter of the planet Earth functions like a single organism, and Golding suggested naming this hypothesis after Gaia, the goddess of the earth in Greek mythology.

In 1970 Golding was a candidate for the Chancellorship of the University of Kent at Canterbury, but lost to the politician and leader of the Liberal Party, Jo Grimond. Golding won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1979, the Booker Prize in 1980, and in 1983 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1988.


Golding's often allegorical fiction makes broad use of allusions to classical literature, mythology, and Christian symbolism. No distinct thread unites his novels (unless it be a fundamental pessimism about humanity), and the subject matter and technique vary. However his novels are often set in closed communities such as islands, villages, monasteries, groups of hunter-gatherers, ships at sea or a pharaoh's court. His first novel, Lord of the Flies (1954; film, 1963 and 1990; play, adapted by Nigel Williams, 1995), dealt with an unsuccessful struggle against barbarism and war, thus showing the ambiguity and fragility of civilization. It has also been said that it is an allegory of World War II. The Inheritors (1955) looked back into prehistory, advancing the thesis that humankind's evolutionary ancestors, "the new people" (generally identified with homo sapiens sapiens), triumphed over a gentler race (generally identified with Neanderthals) as much by violence and deceit as by natural superiority. The Spire 1964 follows the building (and near collapse) of a huge spire onto a medieval cathedral church (generally assumed to be Salisbury Cathedral); the church and the spire itself act as a potent symbols both of the dean's highest spiritual aspirations and of his worldly vanities. His 1954 novel Pincher Martin concerns the last moments of a sailor thrown into the north Atlantic after his ship is attacked. The structure is echoed by that of the later Booker Prize winner by Yann Martel, Life of Pi. The 1967 novel The Pyramid comprises three separate stories linked by a common setting (a small English town in the 1920s) and narrator. The Scorpion God (1971) is a volume of three novellas set in a prehistoric African hunter-gatherer band ('Clonk, Clonk'), an ancient Egyptian court ('The Scorpion God') and the court of a Roman emperor ('Envoy Extraordinary'). The last of these is a reworking of his 1958 play The Brass Butterfly.

Golding's later novels include Darkness Visible (1979), The Paper Men (1984), and the comic-historical sea trilogy To the Ends of the Earth (BBC TV 2005), comprising the Booker Prize-winning Rites of Passage (1980), Close Quarters (1987), and Fire Down Below (1989).

Major works

See also

  • Novels by William Golding
  • John Carey. William Golding: The Man who Wrote Lord of the Flies. London, Faber & Faber. 2009. ISBN 9780571231638
  • John Carey. William Golding: The Man who Wrote Lord of the Flies. New York, Free Press. To be published in the United States by Free Press in June 2010. ISBN 9781439187326


  1. ^ a b c Kevin McCarron, ‘Golding, Sir William Gerald (1911–1993)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, May 2006 accessed 13 Nov 2007
  2. ^ (Which should not be confused with Marlborough College, the "public" boarding school).
  3. ^ a b c d e Brooks, Richard (16 August 2009). "Author William Golding tried to rape girl, 15" (in English). The Times. Retrieved 24 October 2009.  
  4. ^ Mortimer, John (1986). Character Parts. London: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-008959-4.  
  5. ^ Golding, William (1996). The Double Tongue. London: Faber. ISBN 9780571178032.  
  6. ^ Bruce Lambert (20 June 1993). "William Golding Is Dead at 81; The Author of 'Lord of the Flies'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-09-06.  
  7. ^ The Double Tongue 1996 Faber reprint ISBN 9780571177202

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Sir William Golding (1911-09-191993-06-19) was an English novelist and poet. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1983.


Basically I'm an optimist. Intellectually I can see man's balance is about fifty-fifty, and his chances of blowing himself up are about one to one. I can't see this any way but intellectually. I'm just emotionally unable to believe that he will do this. This means that I am by nature an optimist and by intellectual conviction a pessimist, I suppose.
  • The Herr Doctor does not know about peoples.
    • Free Fall (1959), last line
  • The man who tells the tale if he has a tale worth telling will know exactly what he is about and this business of the artist as a sort of starry-eyed inspired creature, dancing along, with his feet two or three feet above the surface of the earth, not really knowing what sort of prints he's leaving behind him, is nothing like the truth.
  • Basically I'm an optimist. Intellectually I can see man's balance is about fifty-fifty, and his chances of blowing himself up are about one to one. I can't see this any way but intellectually. I'm just emotionally unable to believe that he will do this. This means that I am by nature an optimist and by intellectual conviction a pessimist, I suppose.
    • Interview with James Keating, Purdue University, 1962-05-10, printed in Lord of the Flies: The Casebook Edition (1964)
  • The very day after I learned that I was the laureate for literature for 1983 I drove into a country town and parked my car where I should not. I only left the car for a few minutes but when I came back there was a ticket taped to the window. A traffic warden, a lady of a minatory aspect, stood by the car. She pointed to a notice on the wall. "Can't you read?" she said. Sheepishly I got into my car and drove very slowly round the corner. There on the pavement I saw two county policemen.
    I stopped opposite them and took my parking ticket out of its plastic envelope. They crossed to me. I asked if, as I had pressing business, I could go straight to the Town Hall and pay my fine on the spot. "No, sir," said the senior policeman, "I'm afraid you can't do that." He smiled the fond smile that such policemen reserve for those people who are clearly harmless if a bit silly. He indicated a rectangle on the ticket that had the words 'name and address of sender' printed above it. "You should write your name and address in that place," he said. "You make out a cheque for ten pounds, making it payable to the Clerk to the Justices at this address written here. Then you write the same address on the outside of the envelope, stick a sixteen penny stamp in the top right hand corner of the envelope, then post it. And may we congratulate you on winning the Nobel Prize for Literature."
  • The writer probably knows what he meant when he wrote a book, but he should immediately forget what he meant when he's written it.
    • Quoted in John Haffenden, ed., Novelists in Interview, (1985)

Lord of the Flies (1954)

You knew, didn't you? I'm part of you? Close, close, close! I'm the reason why it’s no go? Why things are what they are?
  • "Aren't there any grownups at all?"
    "I don't think so."
    The fair boy said this solemnly; but then the delight of a realized ambition overcame him. In the middle of the scar he stood on his head and grinned at the reversed fat boy.
    "No grownups!"
    • Ch. 1: The Sound of the Shell
  • "I was the only boy in our school what had asthma," said the fat boy with a touch of pride. "And I've been wearing specs since I was three."
    • Ch. 1: The Sound of the Shell
  • "Aren't you going to swim?"
    Piggy shook his head.
    "I can't swim. I wasn't allowed. My asthma—"
    "Sucks to your ass-mar!"
    • Ch. 1: The Sound of the Shell
  • "We can use this to call the others. Have a meeting. They’ll come when they hear us—"
    He beamed at Ralph.
    "That was what you meant, didn't you? That's why you got the conch out of the water."
    Ralph pushed back his fair hair.
    "How did your friend blow the conch?"
    "He kind of spat," said Piggy. "My auntie wouldn't let me blow on account of my asthma. He said you blew from down here." Piggy laid a hand on his jutting abdomen. "You try, Ralph. You'll call the others."
    Doubtfully, Ralph laid the small end of the shell against his mouth and blew. There came a rushing sound from its mouth but nothing more. Ralph wiped the salt water off his lips and tried again, but the shell remained silent.
    "He kind of spat."
    Ralph pursed his lips and squirted air into the shell, which emitted a low, farting noise. This amused both boys so much that Ralph went on squirting for some minutes, between bouts of laughter.
    "He blew from down here."
    Ralph grasped the idea and hit the shell with air from his diaphragm. Immediately the thing sounded. A deep, harsh note boomed under the palms, spread through the intricacies of the forest and echoed back from the pink granite of the mountain. Clouds of birds rose from the treetops, and something squealed and ran in the undergrowth.
    • Ch. 1: The Sound of the Shell
  • "This is our island. It’s a good island. Until the grown-ups come to fetch us we’ll have fun."
    • Ch. 2: Fire on the Mountain
  • Either the wandering breezes or perhaps the decline of the sun allowed a little coolness to lie under the trees. The boys felt it and stirred restlessly.
    "You couldn't have a beastie, a snake-thing, on an island this size," Ralph explained kindly. "You only get them in big countries, like Africa, or India."
    Murmur; and the grave nodding of heads.
    "He says the beastie came in the dark."
    "Then he couldn't see it!"
    Laughter and cheers.
    "Did you hear that? Says he saw the thing in the dark—"
    "He still says he saw the beastie. It came and went away again an' came back and wanted to eat him."
    "He was dreaming."
    Laughing, Ralph looked for confirmation round the ring of faces. The older boys agreed; but here and there among the little ones was the doubt that required more than rational assurance.
    "He must have had a nightmare. Stumbling about among all those creepers."
    More grave nodding. They knew about nightmares.
    "He says he saw the beastie, the snake-thing, and will it come back tonight?"
    "But there isn't a beastie!"
    "He says in the morning it turned into them things like ropes in the trees and hung in the branches. He says will it come back again tonight?"
    "But there isn't a beastie!"
    There was no laughter at all now and more grave watching. Ralph pushed both hands through his hair and looked at the little boy in mixed amusement and exasperation.
    • Ch. 2: Fire on the Mountain
  • Ralph waved the conch.
    "Shut up! Wait! Listen!"
    He went on in the silence, borne on in his triumph.
    "There’s another thing. We can help them to find us. If a ship comes near the island they may not notice us. So we must make smoke on top of the mountain. We must make a fire."
    "A fire! Make a fire!"
    At once half the boys were on their feet. Jack clamored among them, the conch forgotten.
    "Come on! Follow me!"
    The space under the palm trees was full of noise and movement. Ralph was on his feet too, shouting for quiet, but no one heard him. All at once the crowd swayed toward the island and was gone— following Jack. Even the tiny children went and did their best among the leaves and broken branches. Ralph was left, holding the conch, with no one but Piggy.
    • Ch. 2: Fire on the Mountain
  • "How can you expect to be rescued if you don’t put first things first and act proper?"
    • Ch. 2: Fire on the Mountain
  • Ralph lay flat and looked up at the palm trees and the sky.
    "Meetings. Don't we love meetings? Every day. Twice a day. We talk." He got on one elbow. "I bet if I blew the conch this minute, they'd come running. Then we'd be, you know, very solemn, and someone would say we ought to build a jet, or a submarine, or a TV set. When the meeting was over they'd work for five minutes, then wander off or go hunting."
    • Ch. 3: Huts on the Beach
  • Roger stooped, picked up a stone, aimed, and threw it at Henry— threw it to miss. The stone, that token of preposterous time, bounded five yards to Henry's right and fell in the water. Roger gathered a handful of stones and began to throw them. Yet there was a space round Henry, perhaps six yards in diameter, into which he dare not throw. Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life. Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law. Roger's arm was conditioned by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins.
    • Ch. 4: Painted Faces and Long Hair
  • Jack planned his new face. He made one cheek and one eye socket white, then rubbed red over the other half of his face and slashed a black bar of charcoal across from right ear to left jaw. He looked in the mere for his reflection, but his breathing troubled the mirror.
    "Samneric. Get me a coconut. An empty one."
    He knelt, holding the shell of water. A round patch of sunlight fell on his face and a brightness appeared in the depths of the water. He looked in astonishment, no longer at himself but at an awesome stranger. He spilt the water and leapt to his feet, laughing excitedly. Beside the mere, his sinewy body held up a mask that drew their eyes and appalled them. He began to dance and his laughter became a bloodthirsty snarling. He capered towards Bill, and the mask was a thing on its own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness.
    • Ch. 4: Painted Faces and Long Hair
  • The chant was audible but at that distance still wordless. Behind Jack walked the twins, carrying a great stake on their shoulders. The gutted carcass of a pig swung from the stake, swinging heavily as the twins toiled over the uneven ground. The pig's head hung down with gaping neck and seemed to search for something on the ground. At last the words of the chant floated up to them, across the bowl of blackened wood and ashes.
    "Kill the pig! Cut her throat! Spill the blood!"
    Yet as the words became audible, the procession reached the steepest part of the mountain, and in a minute or two the chant had died away.
    • Ch. 4: Painted Faces and Long Hair
  • His mind was crowded with memories; memories of the knowledge that had come to them when they closed in on the struggling pig, knowledge that they had outwitted a living thing, imposed their will upon it, taken away its life like a long satisfying drink.
    • Ch. 4: Painted Faces and Long Hair
  • Jack stood up as he said this, the bloodied knife in his hand. 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 common-sense.
    • Ch. 4: Painted Faces and Long Hair
  • "The rules!" shouted Ralph, "you're breaking the rules!"
    "Who cares?"
    Ralph summoned his wits.
    "Because the rules are the only thing we've got!"
    But Jack was shouting against him.
    "Bollocks to the rules! We're strong — we hunt! If there's a beast, we'll hunt it down! We'll close in and beat and beat and beat — !"
    • Ch. 5: Beast from Water
  • "I'm scared of him," said Piggy, "and that's why I know him. If you're scared of someone you hate him but you can't stop thinking about him. You kid yourself he's alright really, an' then when you see him again; it's like asthma an' you can't breath. I tell you what. He hates you too, Ralph —"
    "Me? Why me?"
    "I dunno. You got him over the fire; an' you're chief an' he isn't."
    "But he's Jack Merridew!"
    "I been in bed so much I done some thinking. I know about people. I know about me. And him. He can't hurt you: but if you're standing out of the way he'd hurt the next thing. And that's me."
    "Piggy's right, Ralph. There's you and Jack. Go on being chief."
    • Ch. 5: Beast from Water
  • However Simon thought of the beast, there rose before his inward sight the picture of a human at once heroic and sick.
    • Ch. 6: Beast from Air
  • "You want a pig," said Roger, "like in a real hunt."
    "Or someone to pretend," said Jack. "You could get someone to dress up as a pig and then he could act — you know, pretend to knock me over and all that —"
    "You want a real pig," said Robert, still caressing his rump, "because you've got to kill him."
    "Use a littlun," said Jack, and everybody laughed.
    • Ch. 7: Shadows and Tall Trees
  • Jack was on top of the sow, stabbing downward with his knife. Roger found a lodgment for his point and began to push till he was leaning his whole weight. The spear moved forward inch by inch and the terrified squealing became a high-pitched scream. Then Jack found the throat and the hot blood spouted over his hands. The sow collapsed under them and they were heavy and fulfilled upon her. The butterflies still danced, preoccupied in the center of the clearing.
    • Ch. 8: Gift for the Darkness
  • He paused and stood up, looking at the shadows under the trees. His voice was lower when he spoke again.
    "But we'll leave part of the kill for …"
    He knelt down again and was busy with his knife. The boys crowded round him. He spoke over his shoulder to Roger.
    "Sharpen a stick at both ends."
    Presently he stood up, holding the dripping sow's head in his hands.
    "Where's that stick?"
    "Ram one end in the earth. Oh — it's rock. Jam it in that crack. There."
    Jack held the head and jammed the soft throat down on the pointed end of the stick which pierced through into the mouth. He stood back and the head hung there, a little blood dribbling down the stick."
    Instinctively the boys drew back too; and the forest was very still. They listened, and the loudest noise was the buzzing of the flies over the spilled guts."
    • Ch. 8: Gift for the Darkness
  • Simon's head was tilted slightly up. His eyes could not break away and the Lord of the Flies hung in space before him.
    "What are you doing out here all alone? Aren't you afraid of me?"
    Simon shook.
    "There isn't anyone to help you. Only me. And I'm the Beast."
    Simon's mouth labored, brought forth audible words.
    "Pig's head on a stick."
    "Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! You knew, didn't you?" said the head. For a moment or two the forest and all the other dimly appreciated places echoed with the parody of laughter. "You knew, didn't you? I'm part of you? Close, close, close! I'm the reason why it’s no go? Why things are what they are?"
    • Ch. 8: Gift for the Darkness
  • "Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood! Do him in!"
    • Ch. 9: A View to a Death
  • Ralph heard the great rock long before he saw it. He was aware of a jolt in the earth that came to him through the soles of his feet, and the breaking sound of stones at the top of the cliff. Then the monstrous red thing bounded across the neck and he flung himself flat while the tribe shrieked.
    The rock struck Piggy a glancing blow from chin to knee; the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist. Piggy, saying nothing, with no time for even a grunt, travelled through the air sideways from the rock, turning over as he went. The rock bounded twice and was lost in the forest. Piggy fell forty feet and landed on his back across that square, red rock in the sea. His head opened and stuff came out and turned red. Piggy's arms and legs twitched a bit, like a pig's after it has been killed. Then the sea breathed again in a long, slow sigh, the water boiled white and pink over the rock; and when it went, sucking back again, the body of Piggy was gone.
    This time the silence was complete. Ralph's lips formed a word but no sound came.
    Suddenly Jack bounded out from the tribe and began screaming wildly.
    "See? See? That's what you'll get! I meant that! There isn't a tribe for you any more! The conch is gone —"
    He ran forward, stooping.
    "I'm Chief!"
    • Ch. 11: Castle Rock - The first edition used the term "painted niggers", later editions changed this to "painted savages" or "painted Indians".
There was no Piggy to talk sense. There was no solemn assembly for debate nor dignity of the conch.
  • What did it mean? A stick sharpened at both ends. What was there in that?
    • Ch. 12: The Cry of the Hunters
  • What was the sensible thing to do?
    There was no Piggy to talk sense. There was no solemn assembly for debate nor dignity of the conch.
    • Ch. 12: The Cry of the Hunters
  • His voice rose under the black smoke before the burning wreckage of the island; and infected by that emotion, the other little boys began to shake and sob too. And in the middle of them, with filthy body, matted hair, and unwiped nose, Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.
    • Ch. 12: The Cry of the Hunters

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