Rites of Passage (Magill's Literary Annual 1981)
Rites of Passage, like most of William Golding’s novels, is an extended parable that treats aspects of the great Christian themes of sin and redemption. Darkness Visible (1979) examined the impact of revelation, personified by the mystic Matty Windrave, upon both ordinary people and those tainted by supernatural evil. In his parable of apocalypse, Golding intended to show how symbols of Christian redemption continue to break fitfully upon the consciousness of the modern world. The author’s most recent novel, presenting this same theme from a different point of view, centers around ordinary people who are tested by evil. Rites of Passage reduces the spiritual conflict to a smaller scale, to the parable of a ship’s voyage to represent the soul’s passage either to sin or redemption.
Golding’s title serves as a complex metaphor for at least three different but harmonizing rites of passage. The most obvious one concerns Edmund Talbot’s coming-of-age. Through his memoirs, written in the form of a ship’s log while he is aboard a decrepit post-Napoleonic vessel-of-the-line, Talbot discloses to the reader, at least initially, the image of a priggish young English aristocrat, patronizing to the lower classes, vain, and politically ambitious. Near the end of the ship’s voyage, however, he has changed decidedly for the...
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Bibliography (Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction Series)
Babb, Howard S. The Novels of William Golding, 1970.
Biles, Jack I. Talk: Conversations with William Golding, 1970.
Dick, Bernard F. William Golding, 1967.
Golding, William. The Hot Gates and Other Pieces, 1965.
Koger, Grove. Review in Library Journal. CV (October 1, 1980), p. 2106.
Larson, Kay. Review in Saturday Review. VII (October, 1980), p. 86.
Stade, George. Review in The New York Times Book Review. LXXXII (November 2, 1980), p. 7.
Strouse, Jean. Review in Newsweek. XCVI (October 27, 1980), p. 104.
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