- William Golding Revisited: A Collection of Original Essays, and: Word and Story in C. S. Lewis, and: Time and Anthony Powell: A Critical Study
Perhaps all of us have, at one time another, written a paper on Lord of the Flies. In fact, at this very moment, some high school student somewhere is very probably typing in the last period in a paper entitled "The Meaning of the Conch," say, [End Page 790] or "Why Piggy Wears Specs." And this, frankly, is as it should be. For Lord of the Flies not only offers its readers vivid characters and a compelling plot, but inevitably leads most of them to ponder more deeply the black fact of human brutality—a fact that of course continues to require our attention in this sorry century of Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot.
Strictly speaking, criticism of Lord of the Flies began with Golding himself, who—back in 1954, when the book first appeared—dutifully filled out a publicity questionnaire that asked for a brief summary of its theme. The novel, Golding replied, "is an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature. The moral is that the shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system however apparently logical or respectable." Golding would later expand upon these remarks, as Kenneth Woodroofe points out in "Lord of the Flies: Trust the Tale," the first essay in William Golding Revisited, edited by B. L. Chakoo. In The Hot Gates and Other Occasional Pieces (1965), for example, Golding explained that Lord of the Flies book grew out of his experience in World War II, where he realized more fully " 'what one man could do to another' "; indeed, wrote Golding, " 'anyone who moved through those years without understanding that man produces evil as a bee produces honey, must have been blind or wrong in the head.' "
But Woodroofe demonstrates that Lord of the Flies is by no means entirely bleak, and encourages us "to identify humanity with its humanity and not with its inhumanity"; in fact, "we see in the figures of Ralph, Piggy, and Simon human behavior struggling gallantly on behalf of human decency and the values of civilization." The other seven essays in William Golding Revisited focus on Golding's other, generally lesser known novels; William Nelson, for example, discusses the many "tones in the writing"—the "voices"—that resonate in The Paper Men (1984); Virginia Tiger ably shows how, in Darkness Visible (1979), Golding "has written a contemporary book of Revelation," a novel which "issues gnomic warnings about judgment as it illuminates the darkness below the surface of contemporary English society." Bharat Nagpal shows how Golding's The Pyramid (1982) "operates in multi-dimension," allowing him to be "ironic-apostolic, comic-tragic, historical-prehistoric." Chakoo himself contributes a lively introduction ably summarizing Golding's continuing preoccupations, and he analyzes Rites of Passage in a separate essay, nicely illuminating the nature—and the complexity—of Golding's moral vision. In William Golding Revisited Chakoo provides an uneven but often insightful collection of essays, the best of which will prove useful to the growing ranks of students and scholars whose interests embrace not only Lord of the Flies, but the full range of work that, in 1983, brought Golding the Nobel Prize.
With Word and Story in C. S. Lewis, Peter J. Schakel and Charles A. Huttar have assembled a strong volume of sixteen essays, each of them inspired—notes Schakel—by the belief that "an awareness of Lewis's ideas about language and narrative is essential to a full appreciation of his thought and works, and that this awareness is essential for all readers of Lewis, for those interested in his religious thought...