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Golding’s major thematic matter was that human beings are born with a capacity for and perhaps tendency toward evil; that is, there is a kind of original sin, even though this sin is probably a biological, not theological, fact. His most famous book, Lord of the Flies (1954), is a thoroughgoing demonstration of his beliefs.

The Inheritors extends the concept. The people are Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before the Fall, before the entry of sin into the world. Their legends tell of a time when there was no end to summer and when flowers and fruit existed together. They have no technology. Although they have fire, they depend upon lightning for it. That is, they live with nature rather than exploiting it. To kill animals is a bad thing. They eat meat, but only from animals killed by other animals. When Lok and Fa find a doe killed by a saber-toothed tiger, they hastily break it apart, believing that they are doing something wrong. Sex is utterly natural and innocent. They love each other and even the other: Ha reaches out as friend and relative to the man who later kills him. It is not the people, then, who sin and so lose Eden, although Fa and Lok, inspecting the abandoned camp of the others, find a container of mead and drink it. They become violent and sexual in a bad sense momentarily; they become like the others, suffering a Fall.

It is the new people, Homo sapiens, who fall, by separating themselves from the natural. They have a primitive technology and arms and so can control the natural, but they do not care for the natural except as it can be used. The killing of animals, including related animals such as the people, is accepted, not only as necessary but as good because these people are not really human. There also is something wrong with the sex life of the new men: It is mixed up with power, not pleasure.

Golding develops a related theme in his critical picture of patriarchy by varying the traditional Edenic image of a male God, with males as the receivers of divine guidance. Golding’s people worship the Goddess, called Oa, a peaceful, female power, the true creator, one that gave birth to the first man. The little girl, Liku, carries around a root that represents the female power and creativity. Golding describes the root well; it looks like the Venus of Willendorf, a big-bellied statuette that is one of the most ancient European representations of the goddess. When Fa climbs up to an ice cave to ask help from the goddess, Lok, as male, should not be there; he is almost overwhelmed by the power of the place. Males make decisions for the people, but the source of life and value is female. Among the others, males control religion and life, and their religion is a savage one, designed to dominate a world that is always alien.

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Critical Evaluation