Critical Evaluation

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Free Fall is the fourth novel of Sir William Golding. It is written not only in the genre of the novel of personal development but also in that of the Künstlerroman, the novel about artistic development and personality. As most of Golding’s earlier novels, it is written in conscious dialectic to some other narrative, in this case Albert Camus’s La Chute (1956; The Fall, 1957). Camus sees no possibility of regeneration or redemption after a fall; Golding does. There are other literary influences. Joyce Cary’s The Horse’s Mouth (1944) also is a first-person narrative by a painter; Golding’s style is at times reminiscent of Cary’s. L. P. Hartley’s prizewinning novel The Go-Between was published only a few years previously (1953) and also deals with a boy’s loss of innocence through sexual knowledge, though Leo is a much more passive protagonist than Sammy. Another influence is the great French text À la recherche du temps perdu (1913-1927; Remembrance of Things Past, 1922-1931) by Marcel Proust, a model for Sammy’s search for significant moments of time buried in half-conscious memory.

The title suggests that the novel stands in a central literary tradition of exploration of the limits of freedom. Golding’s achievement is to be able to restate such traditional material, often of a theological nature, in the language and thought of the post-World War II Western world. The novel also describes moments of revelation that define one’s view of reality, the futility of material life without a spiritual or transcendent dimension, the nature of evil, and the correspondence of personal to social integration or disintegration. Perhaps new to this novel, for Golding, is an exploration of the relationship of guilt to forgiveness, and the way that conviction of guilt and the ability to forgive need...

(The entire section is 772 words.)