William Golding

(1911-1993), British

William Golding was born on September 19, 1911, in Cornwall, England. Although he tried to write a novel as early as age twelve, his parents urged him to study the natural sciences. Golding followed his parents’ wishes until his second year at Oxford, when he changed his focus to English literature. After graduating from Oxford, he worked briefly as a theater actor and director, wrote poetry, and then became a schoolteacher. In 1940, a year after England entered World War II, Golding joined the Royal Navy, where he served in command of a rocket-launcher and participated in the invasion of Normandy.

Golding’s experience in World War II had a profound effect on his view of humanity and the evils of which it was capable. After the war, Golding resumed teaching and started to write novels. His first and greatest success came with Lord of the Flies (1954), which ultimately became a bestseller in both Britain and the United States after more than twenty publishers rejected it. The novel’s sales enabled Golding to retire from teaching and devote himself fully to writing. Golding wrote several more novels, notably Pincher Martin (1956), and a play, The Brass Butterfly (1958). Although he never matched the popular and critical success he enjoyed with Lord of the Flies, he remained a respected and distinguished author for the rest of his life and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983. Golding died in 1993, one of the most acclaimed writers of the second half of the twentieth century.

Study Guides

Quotes

My yesterdays walk with me. They keep step, they are gray faces that peer over my shoulder.

Language fits over experience like a straight-jacket.

What a man does defiles him, not what is done by others.

The writer probably knows what he meant when he wrote a book, but he should immediately forget what he meant when he's written it.

He who rides the sea of the Nile must have sails woven of patience.

Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.

The greatest ideas are the simplest.

Novels

Lord of the Flies
1954
The Inheritors
1955
Pincher Martin
1956
Free Fall
1959
The Spire
1964
The Pyramid
1967
The Scorpion God
1971
Darkness Visible
1979
The Paper Men
1984
Rites of Passage
To the Ends of the Earth trilogy, 1980
Close Quarters
To the Ends of the Earth trilogy, 1987
Fire Down Below
To the Ends of the Earth trilogy, 1989
The Double Tongue
1995, posthumous

Nonfiction

The Hot Gates
1965
A Moving Target
1982
An Egyptian Journal
1985

Poetry

Poems
1934