The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Like most of William Golding’s novels, The Inheritors uses the “alien” in order to talk about the present. A tiny band of people return to their summer cave beside a river, near a large waterfall. The people are based in part on the Neanderthals but are described as physically much more primitive; to themselves, they are simply the people. The first and longest part of the novel is told through the eyes of one of them, the male Lok, and presents the value system of the people.

The cave is a place where they are safe from animals, but its location aggravates their desperate fear of water. Once, they remember, they were many more in number, but their numbers have shrunk to eight. They are both human and animal, capable of speech and ideas like humans but also of knowing the world as an animal does, for example through a keen sense of smell. The eldest, the old man Mal, is their source of knowledge. He falls ill. Ha, the more intelligent of the two remaining males, comes across a being that he scents as related to himself. When he approaches it, it kills him. This “other” is not named but is obviously a member of Homo sapiens.

Mal dies, and Lok, who is not very intelligent, is the only male left. Lok learns that the others are on an island in the river. When Lok and his mate, Fa, are away, the others kill the unnamed old woman, along with the other adult female, Nil, and then kidnap the two children, a young girl named...

(The entire section is 460 words.)