Nobel prize-winning British author, Golding produced twelve novels in total and is yet remembered primarily for one—Lord of the Flies. He also penned poems, plays, essays, reviews, short stories, and one travel book on Egypt. In order to better comprehend Golding's literary successes, it helps to understand his background and the era in which he lived.
Golding was born in Cornwall, England, to a science teacher and a suffragette. Perhaps he knew early on that he wanted to write because Golding graduated with honors from Oxford University after studying English Literature and had his first book Poems published that same year. He was twenty-three years old at the time, and in the autumn he took a teaching position.
After marrying Ann Brookfield, an analytical chemist, Golding became involved in the war effort. He worked at a facility that researched weaponry and he served in the Royal Navy. The commander of minesweepers and ships loaded with ammunition and fire power, Golding saw action in the pursuit of Germany's Bismarck, and he supported landing troops on D-day. Later Golding bombed the coast of a Dutch island to defend it from German invasion, only to later find out that his military intelligence wasn't accurate. He believed the nearby community to have been evacuated when in fact civilians remained. All this combined with the information about gas chambers and Nazi concentration camps influenced Golding when the idea for Lord of the Flies presented itself.
It was after reading R.M. Ballantyne's novel The Coral Island: A Tale of the Pacific Ocean to his children that Golding began working on the idea of Lord of the Flies. Golding told his wife that he thought boys alone on an island wouldn't necessarily act as civilized as they had in Ballantyne's story. Having lived through the horrors of two world wars, Golding had seen first hand what man will do to man. Also by teaching young boys for many years, Golding felt he understood the workings of their minds.
Thus Lord of the Flies came to be written. However, it took many rejections before the manuscript found an interested editor. Charles Monteith at Faber & Faber of London pulled Golding's story out of the slush pile, began reading, and recognized its significance. Published in autumn 1954, the novel sold as more of an adventure story. It wasn't until the paperback version was released in 1959 that students, who had more access to a paperback copy, appreciated the novel's stark theme on the evils of human nature and civilization. Teachers began assigning the book as required reading. Lord of the Flies was made into a movie in 1963 and in 1990. A play was adapted from the book in 1995.
Golding followed his successful novel with three more works The Inheritors, Pincher Martin, and Free Fall, gaining financial independence through his writing. He gave up his teaching position in 1961 and traveled to Virginia to be a writer-in-residence. It was after The Spire was published in 1964 that Golding stopped producing novels. A few short stories, novellas, and essays dotted his resume until 1979's release of Darkness Visible. Partially derived from John Milton's "Paradise Lost", this novel uses Christian symbolism and pits good against evil.
A lifetime of seamanship and a love of reading about the navy inspired Golding's trilogy To the Ends of the Earth. The first book Rites of Passage earned Golding the Booker Prize for literature. In 1983 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature for the literary work he'd accomplished. Golding created a positive ending to his trilogy by employing a sense of humor throughout. Its his comedic side that Golding believed his critics consistently overlooked.
Golding died of a heart attack in 1993. His literary achievements live on, but with the overwhelming popularity of Lord of the Flies his other novels have become unrecognized or forgotten.
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