William Golding’s Apocalyptic Vision in Lord of the Flies and Pincher Martin

Arnab Chatterjee 1
  • 1 Senior Research Fellow, University Grants Commission (UGC), New Delhi in the Department of English & Culture Studies, the University of Burdwan,, West Bengal, India


Humanity has long been haunted by the notions of Armageddon and the coming of a Golden Age. While the English Romantic poets like Shelley saw hopes of a new millennium in poems like “Queen Mab” and “The Revolt of Islam”, others like Blake developed their own unique “cosmology” in their longer poems that were nevertheless coloured with their vision of redemption and damnation. Even Hollywood movies, like The Book of Eli (2010), rehearse this theme of salvation in the face of imminent annihilation time and again. Keeping with such trends, this paper would like to trace this line of apocalyptic vision and subsequent hopes of renewal with reference to William Golding’s debut novel Lord of the Flies (1954) and his Pincher Martin (1956). While in the former, a group of young school boys indulge in violence, firstly for survival, and then for its own sake, in the latter, a lonely, shipwrecked survivor of a torpedoed destroyer clings to his own hard, rock-like ego that subsequently is a hurdle for his salvation and redemption, as he is motivated by a lust for life that makes him exist in a different moral and physical dimension. In Lord of the Flies, the entire action takes place with nuclear warfare presumably as its backdrop, while Pincher Martin has long been interpreted as an allegory of the Cold War and the resultant fear of annihilation from nuclear fallout (this applies to Golding’s debut novel as well). Thus, this paper would argue how Golding weaves his own vision of social, spiritual, and metaphysical dissolution, and hopes for redemption, if any, through these two novels.

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