William Golding (1911- 1993): Biography and famous works

William Golding was born on September 19, 1911, in Newquay, Cornwall, England. He spent his early years in Cornwall, a coastal region that would later inspire the settings of some of his novels. Golding attended the prestigious Marlborough Grammar School, where he developed a keen interest in literature and writing. He excelled academically and won a scholarship to Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1930. At Oxford, he initially studied natural science but later switched to English literature. During his time at the university, he became involved in theater and joined a drama group, which ignited his passion for drama and storytelling.

After completing his degree in 1934, Golding pursued a career in teaching. He taught English and philosophy at Bishop Wordsworth’s School in Salisbury, Wiltshire, from 1935 to 1940. In 1939, he married Ann Brookfield, whom he had met during his time at Oxford.  With the outbreak of World War II, Golding temporarily put his teaching career on hold and joined the Royal Navy in 1940. He served as a naval officer, primarily on escort ships, and participated in various operations, including the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck. His wartime experiences had a profound impact on his worldview and influenced the themes of power, violence, and human nature that would feature prominently in his later writings. After the war, Golding returned to teaching and took up a position as a lecturer in English and philosophy at Bishop Wordsworth’s School. He continued to write during his spare time, but it wasn’t until the publication of his first novel, “Lord of the Flies,” that he gained significant recognition as a writer.

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“Lord of the Flies” was published in 1954 and remains a classic of English literature. The novel tells the story of a group of young boys stranded on an uninhabited island who attempt to govern themselves, but their society descends into chaos and violence. It explores themes of civilization, human nature, and the inherent evil that can exist within individuals. In his next novel “The Inheritors” (1955), Golding depicts the clash between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. The story is narrated from the perspective of the Neanderthals, exploring the theme of the inherent violence and destructive nature of humanity. “Pincher Martin” (1956) is mainly a  psychological novel that focuses on Christopher Martin, a naval officer who is shipwrecked and finds himself alone on a rock in the middle of the ocean. As he struggles for survival, the narrative delves into Martin’s inner turmoil and descent into madness. “Free Fall” (1959) delves into the mind of Samuel Mountjoy, an artist struggling with his identity and grappling with the meaning of life. The story explores themes of alienation, existentialism, and the loss of faith. His novel “The Spire” (1964) is set in medieval England, and it tells the story of Dean Jocelin, who becomes obsessed with constructing a towering spire for his cathedral. As he relentlessly pursues his vision, the narrative delves into the themes of ambition, faith, and the destructive consequences of unchecked obsession, and “The Double Tongue” (1995) which is published posthumously revolves around a prophetess named Arieka. Set in ancient Greece, it explores the power dynamics between the prophetess, the ruling elite, and the impact of prophecy on society.

Apart from these major works, Golding also wrote several other novels, including “The Pyramid” (1967), “Darkness Visible” (1979), and “The Paper Men” (1984). Additionally, he wrote plays such as “The Brass Butterfly” (1958) and “The Hot Gates” (1965). His essays and non-fiction works include “The Hot Gates and Other Occasional Pieces” (1965) and “A Moving Target” (1982).

Golding’s works often depicted the fragility of civilization, the struggle between good and evil, and the complexities of human behavior. His writing style was characterized by its psychological depth, rich symbolism, and a willingness to explore the darker aspects of humanity. His contributions to literature earned him critical acclaim and a lasting place in the canon of English literature. In 1983, Golding was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his contributions to the literary world. The Nobel Committee described him as a writer “who in his novels consistently considers the human condition.”

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