CLOSE QUARTERS presupposes knowledge of its predecessor, RITES OF PASSAGE, published in 1980. That novel is cast in the form of a journal kept by an aristocratic young man, Edmund Fitzhenry Talbot, at the behest of his godfather and patron. The ambitious Talbot has a post awaiting him in Australia’s colonial government--a stepping-stone, he hopes, to a career in Parliament and, ultimately, a cabinet seat. Like many fictional protagonists, he is a mixture of charm and unconscious arrogance, a fundamentally decent man who has much to learn on this voyage of initiation. RITES OF PASSAGE concludes with a horrific testimony to humankind’s propensity to evil: Golding’s recurring preoccupation, all too convincingly dramatized.
The second book in the trilogy takes up where the first left off. The premise of a journal is maintained (although this time, with his first volume sewn in sailcloth for safekeeping, Talbot is writing for himself rather than for his godfather), and once again Golding re-creates the idiom of the era with great elan. Again, too, he brilliantly evokes the microcosm of the ship, which for the duration of the voyage is a world unto itself; an aged ship of the line converted to carry passengers and cargo, it is literally falling apart.
Yet there are also differences between the first and second books of the trilogy. CLOSE QUARTERS is much lighter in tone than its predecessor, and less obviously allegorical. At the center of it...
(The entire section is 344 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Close Quarters Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!