Critical Context

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

For Nobel Laureate William Golding, Darkness Visible was not a popular (or even generally critical) success. Nevertheless, the novel, written after a gestation of twelve years, shows a bold commitment to the Christian values that Golding had previously treated indirectly through metaphors. To be sure, the moral parable of the book is clear enough: transcendent grace is revealed “darkly” in a world of evil. Yet the darkness, the ambiguity, upon which Golding insists puts off many readers. Why, for example, does Matty expose his true nature to Mr. Pedigree instead of the sturdily normal Mr. Goodchild? Sim Goodchild is a kindly man, a rational man, a spokesman for goodwill and toleration, whereas Sebastian Pedigree is a shabby, timid lover of boys, a deviant. Mr. Goodchild, however, lacks the power of intuition. Mr. Pedigree, for all of his flaws (his human “pedigree” of original sin), understands the reality of suffering, the bleakness of sin and guilt, the pitiful yearning for love. Only to this miserable man Matty reveals himself with a sacrifice of love.

In Postwar British Fiction: New Accents and Attitudes (1962), James Gindin argues that Golding’s metaphors are “gimmicks” that work against the structure of his fiction, “clever tricks that shift the focus or the emphasis of the novel as a whole.” Yet the reader of this book may reject entirely the metaphor of transcendent grace through which Golding allows Matty to...

(The entire section is 520 words.)