Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
William Gerald Golding is considered one of the most distinguished twentieth century British novelists. His first novel, Lord of the Flies, has not only been canonized by school curricula but also entered mythology. Golding was born in a small village in rural southwest England to Alex and Mildred Golding. He was educated at an academically sound but unprestigious state-funded grammar school and at Brasenose College, University of Oxford. After graduation in 1935 and a brief spell as a writer, actor, and producer with small theater companies (experience evident in the tight plotting of his novels and his choice of dramatic situations), Golding became a master at Bishop Wordsworth’s School in the cathedral town of Salisbury; this appointment contributed toward the strong sense of place evoked in his novel The Spire. He married Ann Brookfield in 1939 and the following year joined the Royal Navy, where he saw such action as the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck and commanding a rocket-launching craft during the Allied invasion of France; these experiences infuse the novel Pincher Martin. After World War II ended, Golding returned to teaching, and he remained a teacher until 1960.
No one could have suspected in 1954 that the intensely private author of Lord of the Flies would come to occupy a central place in British culture. This first novel was initially regarded as little more than an exciting but darkly unpleasant adventure story of a group of schoolboys stranded on a desert island, who degenerate into savagery under a “dictator.” Yet the novel’s cultural roots go deep. It turns upside down the world of R. M. Ballantyne’s children’s classic The Coral Island (1857) and subverts the essential optimism of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) to create a modern myth that unfolds with swift and brutal inevitability. In addition to having the pent-up energy of a long-meditated...
(The entire section is 846 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Born in the county of Cornwall in the southwest corner of England, the son of a rationalistic schoolmaster, William Gerald Golding had a relatively isolated childhood. Eventually his family moved to Marlborough, in Wiltshire, where his father was a science teacher. There Golding received his high school education while revisiting Cornwall frequently. He graduated from Brasenose College, Oxford, in science and literature. The choice of arts over science was made at the university, but scientific interests and approaches can be easily discerned in his literary work. Each of Golding’s novels is, in a way, a new experiment set up to test a central hypothesis.
After the unsuccessful publication of a book of poetry in 1934, Golding moved to London and participated in fringe theater without achieving anything of significance. In 1939 he married Ann Brookfield and accepted a teaching post at Bishop Wordsworth’s School, Salisbury, also in Wiltshire. Soon after the outbreak of World War II, he joined the Royal Navy; during his service, he saw extensive action against German warships, was adrift for three days in the English Channel, and participated in the Normandy landings.
After the war, he resumed teaching and tried writing novels. His first four were highly imitative and were met only with editorial refusals. He then decided to write as he wanted, not as he thought he ought to write. This shift in approach led to the immediate publication of...
(The entire section is 449 words.)
Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
William Gerald Golding was born on September 19, 1911, in St. Columb Minor in Cornwall, England. His father was an extremely well-educated schoolmaster, and his mother was a strong-minded suffragette. Golding grew up in the family home at Marlborough. When he left to enter Brasenose College, Oxford, he had planned to study science, but he later decided to study English literature instead. After graduating, he worked for a while in a London theater group, writing, acting, and producing. In 1939, however, he married and then followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a schoolmaster at Bishop Wordsworth’s School in Salisbury. He left Bishop Wordsworth’s to serve in the Royal Navy during World War II. He saw action at sea as a lieutenant on a rocket launcher and was very affected by seeing the violence of which people were capable. He returned to the school in 1945 and taught there until 1961.
As a child, Golding had been fascinated with words, and as an adult he tried his hand at writing, but with little early success. A small volume, Poems (1934), was published when he was twenty-three, but Golding decided he was not a poet. During the early years of his teaching career, he wrote several novels that he himself described as being too derivative, too much like works that had already been written. Publishers were not interested in these works, either. Trying a new tactic, Golding wrote Lord of the Flies (1954). For this novel, he adopted an unusual perspective that he then altered at the end, and he used his experience with small boys to explore the dark side of humanity, which the war...
(The entire section is 703 words.)
Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
As a mythmaker, William Golding writes stories that illuminate a truth about human nature. He sometimes creates those stories by presenting literary precedents in new ways and sometimes supplies the concrete details by drawing on his own experiences and interests. The truth he most often reveals is the existence of a depravity most humans would like to ignore or deny. The pessimism of such a focus is sometimes balanced by the possibility that self-awareness empowers goodness in people. In those novels that present both the darkness and the potential light, Golding’s pessimistic logic and optimistic nature merge.
From an unknown schoolmaster in 1954, when Lord of the Flies was first published William Golding became a major novelist over the next ten years, only to fall again into relative obscurity after the publication of the generally well-received The Spire in 1964. This second period of obscurity lasted until the end of the 1970s. The years 1979 to 1982 were suddenly fruitful for Golding, and in 1983 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. How does one account for a life filled with such ups and downs? There can be no one answer to that question, except perhaps to note that Golding's motto, "Nothing Twice," suggests a man with an inquiring mind who was not afraid to try many different approaches to his craft. He knew that while some of his efforts might fail, others would be all the stronger for the attempt.
Born in Cornwall, England, in 1911, Golding was the son of an English schoolmaster, a many-talented man who believed strongly in science and rational thought, Golding often described his father's overwhelming influence on his life. The author graduated from Oxford University in 1935 and spent four years (later described by Golding as having been "wasted") writing, acting, and producing for a small London theater. Golding himself became a schoolmaster for a year, after marrying Ann Brookfield in 1939 and before entering the British Royal Navy in 1940.
Golding had switched his major from Science to English Literature after two years in college—a crucial change that marked the beginning of Golding's disillusion with the rationalism of his father. The single event in Golding's life that most affected his writing of Lord of the Flies, however, was probably his service in World War II. Raised in the sheltered environment of a private English school, Golding was unprepared for the violence unleashed by the war. Joining the Navy, he was injured in an accident involving detonators early in the war, but later was given command of a small rocket-launching craft. Golding was present at the sinking of the Bismarck—the crown ship of the German Navy—and also took part in the D-Day landings in France in June 1944. He later described his experience in the war as one in which "one had one's nose rubbed in the human condition."
After the war, Golding returned to teaching English and philosophy at the same school where he had begun his teaching career. During the next nine years, from 1945 until 1954, he wrote three novels rejected for their derivative nature before finally getting the idea for Lord of the Flies. After reading a bedtime boys adventure story to his small children, Golding wondered out loud to his wife whether it would be a good idea to write such a story but to let the characters "behave as they really would." His wife thought that would be a "first class idea." With that encouragement, Golding found that writing the story, the ideas for which had been germinating in his mind for some time, was simply a matter of getting it down on paper.
Golding went on to write ten other novels plus shorter fiction, plays, essays, and a travel book. His writings include the novels Lord of the Flies (1954), The Inheritors (1955), Pincher Martin (1956), Free Fall (1959), The Spire (1964), Darkness Visible (1979), Rites of Passage (1981), Close Quarters (1987), Fire Down Below (1989), the play The Brass Butterfly (1958), a book of verse called Poems (1934), and two essay collections: The Hot Gates (1965) and A Moving Target (1982). Yet it is his first novel, Lord of the Flies, that made him famous, and for which he will probably remain best known. Golding died of a heart attack on June 28, 1993.
Imagine a man who embraced solitude as a child but who became famous for writing about group dynamics. Imagine a man who enjoyed the benefits of a peaceful adolescence, complete with private schooling, but who spent his adult years writing about the inherent violent nature of humans. Imagine a man who was groomed by his parents to be a scientist but who ended up as one of the greatest writers of his time. Imagine William Golding. Raised by educated parents who supported rational thought, Golding used his experiences from World War II to create novels of dark human action. Nothing in Golding’s past suggests that he should become the foremost author of the twentieth century to write about the conflict between barbaric human nature and civil reasoning; his novels, however, continue to entertain and raise those same questions today.
- During his five-year military career, Golding was a participant in both the sinking of the great German battleship, the Bismarck, and in the allied invasion of Normandy.
- Golding’s most famous novel, The Lord of the Flies, was originally titled The Strangers Within and was published twenty-nine years before he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
- Lord of the Flies was rejected by twenty-one publishers before acceptance by Faber and Faber.
- One of Golding’s hobbies was researching and exploring the myth of the Loch Ness monster.
- Golding was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1988.