The Life of William Golding – English Essay
Golding enrolled in World War II, as a part of the Royal Navy, in 1940, just after marrying Ann Brookfield. He started as just a sailor, but later decided to become an officer. While taking his exam to become one, he was
asked a question about landmines and responded elaborately and in such detail that he was almost instantly promoted and sent to a secret research center. He liked this study and analysis until an accident when he “blew himself up.” Resigning from this work, he was sent instead to Scotland and a mine-sweeper school and then transferred again to New York and waited while a mine-sweeper was built for six months. When he finally returned, the mine-sweepers were no longer needed so he was put in charge of a rocket-launching craft in time for the 1944 invasion. Once during the invasion, he was ordered to travel through a narrow channel which could have easily resulted in destruction and many deaths to his crew. His orders were changed, however, before he could embark on this dangerous task and the members of his crew criticized him for his obvious disappointment at missing this opportunity. His crew, obviously, was not disappointed for not having to risk their lives in the war. (Gindin)
The effects of the war on Golding were serious, crucial, and had an impact on the rest of his life. He recognized the fact that “in the past he had been naïve and adolescent, that the war had demonstrated all the horrendous cruelties of which man was capable.” (Gindin, 4). It was several years after World War II that Golding’s views were finally revealed to the public. His novel, Lord of the Flies, was rejected by 21 publishers before becoming available for the people.
The Coral Island, written by R.M. Ballantyne, served as one of Golding’s main sources when writing his book Lord of the Flies. The two novels essential views openly contradict each other. Golding takes a pessimistic standpoint on society, where as Ballantyne’s perspective is much more optimistic, action-packed, and upbeat. The Coral Island is a story of three boys shipwrecked on an island in the Pacific Ocean. Ralph Rover the narrator, Jack, and Peterkin create a peaceful, serene society despite the violent environment around them. Battling typhoons, wild pigs, and unfriendly visitors, the boys still manage to create an enjoyable surrounding from the few supplies they are left with, and create fire by rubbing two sticks together. The boys build a boat together and sail to nearby islands, and though they get in several disagreements and fights with the neighboring tribes they eventually return to civilization wiser and more mature. (http://selfknowledge.com/coril10.htm)
The bright and cheerful mood of The Coral Island is not replicated in Golding’s novel. Golding, after being deeply affected by his war experiences, disagreed with the overall idea of Ballantyne’s book. Golding believed that man was inherently evil, and this is portrayed in Lord of the Flies. Despite the contradicting theses, however, there are several obvious parallels from Ballantyne’s novel to Golding’s. The character names, for example, could not have been a coincidence. The main characters in Lord of the Flies are named Ralph, Jack, Simon, and Piggy, similar to the protagonists in The Coral Island. The setting of both novels is a remote island, and the appearance of an officer during the falling action of the plot occurs in both Golding’s and Ballantyne’s books. Golding includes these parallels to emphasize his disagreement. Man is evil by nature, and would not prosper if removed from a civilized society but rather would digress to a primitive state.