Biography of William Golding (1911-1993)
Sir William Gerald Golding was born in 1911 in Saint Columb Minor in Cornwall, England, to Alec Golding, a socialist teacher who supported scientific rationalism, and Mildred Golding (née Curnroe), a supporter of female suffrage. As a child, William Golding was educated at the Marlborough Grammar School, where his father worked, and later at Brasenose College, Oxford. Although educated to be a scientist at the request of his father, the young Golding developed an interest in literature, becoming devoted first to Anglo-Saxon texts and then to poetry, which he wrote avidly. At Oxford he studied natural science for two years and then transfered to a program for English literature and philosophy. Following a short period of time in which he worked in various positions at a settlement house and in small theater companies as both an actor and a writer, Golding became a schoolmaster at Bishop Wordsworth's School in Salisbury. During the Second World War he joined the Royal Navy and was involved in the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck, after which he returned to Bishop Wordsworth's School, where he taught until the early 1960s.
In 1954, Golding published his first novel, Lord of the Flies, which details the adventures of British schoolboys stranded on an island in the Pacific who descend into barbaric behavior. Although at first rejected by twenty-one different publishing houses, Golding's first novel became a surprise success. E.M. Forster declared Lord of the Flies the outstanding novel of its year, while Time and Tide called it "not only a first-rate adventure story but a parable of our times." Golding continued to develop similar themes concerning the inherent violence in human nature in his next novel, IThe Inheritors, published the following year. This novel deals with the last days of Neanderthal man. The Inheritors posits that the Cro-Magnon "fire-builders" triumphed over Neanderthal man as much by violence and deceit as by any natural superiority. His subsequent works include Pincher Martin (1956), the story of a guilt-ridden naval officer who faces an agonizing death, Free Fall (1959), and The Spire (1964), each of which deals with the depravity of human nature. The Spire is an allegory concerning the protagonist's obsessive determination to build a cathedral spire regardless of the consequences.
In addition to his novels and his early collection of poems, Golding published a play entitled The Brass Butterfly in 1958 and two collections of essays, The Hot Gates (1965) and A Moving Target (1982).
Golding's final works include Darkness Visible (1979), the story of a boy horribly injured during the London blitz of World War II, and Rites of Passage (1980). This novel won the Booker McConnell Prize, the most prestigious award for English literature, and inspired two sequels, Close Quarters (1987) and Fire Down Below (1989). These three novels portray life aboard a ship during the Napoleonic Wars.
In 1983, Golding received the Nobel Prize for literature for his novels which, according to the Nobel committee, "with the perspicuity of realistic narrative art and the diversity and universality of myth, illuminate the human condition in the world of today." In 1988 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. Sir William died in 1993 in Perranarworthal, Cornwall. At the time of his death he was working on an unfinished manuscript entitled "The Double Tongue," which focused on the fall of Hellenic culture and the rise of Roman civilization. This work was published posthumously in 1995.