This is obviously a book that is fundamentally 'about' Jocelin, though of course that in itself is a little simplistic.
Golding in most of his books is interested in the business of good and evil. I think part of the reason why Lord of the Flies is his most popular book is because it speaks very clearly about this in quite an accessible way. In many senses it works like a fable, with the artificial setting of the island, away from normal society, and its characters are fairly clear-cut. At one end of the spectrum is Simon, the Christ-like figure, whilst at the other is Roger, the cruel sadist. Jack sits towards the Roger end whilst Ralph and Piggy are towards Simon's. In other words - and I'm grossly simplifying it here - good and evil are given relatively clear vessels, though the ultimate message is that evil - the beast - is in all of us.
The Spire, even though it is removed in time with its medieval setting, seems more 'real' in that good and evil are far more mixed. There is no specialised setting to bring out the truth that's within us; instead we see in Jocelin a man who is deeply flawed but with good intentions; the good and evil exist in a strange alliance, shown symbolically through the angel at his back which is then replaced by the scourging devil.
Here I think people may disagree - if I read some of the comments on the main thread correctly I think Jocelin was roundly despised as having little worth. Well, I don't see him like that.
Yes, he definitely suffers from the sin of pride (the Devil's sin). His vanity is ultimately behind the erection of the spire (read that how you will...) and at times he thinks in ways that set him on a par with God, almost. He sees the people as tiny and parts of the great plan, with him as the overseer - something that is played even more overtly when he ascends the construction and sees the tiny business of the world below. Indeed, he clearly uses these people, most heinously exploiting Roger Mason's relationship with Goody to keep him there.
He is arrogant, pig-headed and self-deceiving.
It's clear he really does believe he has been given a vision. He sees himself as God's vessel and whilst we can easily dismiss that as his arrogance, what if Isaiah had decided, "No, God can't really be speaking to me, can he? I'd best be humble and not say anything."
He believes this is God's plan and that it is his duty to see it through in the face of all the opposition of those who look only at the physical reality of the building, not at God's almighty power. When everything is brought to its terrible climax with the spire after Jehan botches the rigging in the absence of Roger Mason, Jocelin truly believes that if the holy Nail is driven home then that will save it. He puts himself at great risk in the howling storm to climb the tower and knock it in.
In an earlier moment of crisis he kneels beneath the whining stones, possibly with the whole structure about to crash onto his head, trying in a sense to take its weight on his back, having faith that it can be saved because it is God's will.
I love the revelatory moments when we see glimpses of what Jocelin has become - shrunken and skeletal, his eyes sunk into his head, all through the stresses and strain of the project.
In other words, as doomed as we know the spire to be, from his perspective he is doing good. Perhaps that's where the analogies with the Garden of Eden come in - his essential goodness undone by the temptations of evil, be that misguided pride or the latent sexuality that rears its head ever more strongly in relation to Goody Pangall.
By the end, like a Shakespearean tragic hero, he sees the truth too late. I think there is great power in the times when he suddenly sees Father Adam with unclouded eyes, no longer dismissing him as Father Anonymous but taking the time to look closely at his kind eyes. Also with Anselm, when he asks not for forgiveness of what he did, but of who he is. That's just a perfect revelation of the self. In a sense it's like Simon's realisation of the beast within - something also emerging from a trance-like state and as a pre-cursor to death.
So, there's some thoughts; as with the other thread I've got lots more if people fancy talking about it, but I won't drone on!
The Paper Men by William Golding is my first foray into non-LotF writing by Golding, and,despite my disappointment with this novel, it won't be my last.
Wilfred Barclay is an arrogant and alcoholic 'famous literary author' nearing the end of his career. Rick Tucker is an ambitious American biographer who wants to be the great man's Bosley. But Wilf has skeletons he'd prefer to keep closeted. But Tucker is determined, and shameless, and pursues Barclay with vigor.
And that is the book. Barclay, who narrates, does end up telling us some of the details of his many peccadilloes, while globetrotting to avoid Tucker. But there is more style than substance here. Although the style is superb! Golding can sculpt a sentence! And that is why I will read more of his work. But there just wasn't a whole lot of story here, and the whole exercise seemed rather self indulgent. But it was sure fun in places. 3.5stars
I'm not sure that Lord of the Flies has always been done a great favour by being included so ubiquitously on O-Level/GCSE set text lists. There will always be a number of enlightened souls who are able to see it as a piece of literature to be enjoyed and not simply part of the examination slog, but for the most part I suspect it has a similar negative effect as morning hymn-singing, which is guaranteed to put you off organised religion for life.
The premise of innate evil within all of us (fallen humanity, if you like) has always been of fascination to me, both in literature and real life (as in the famous experiment turning university students into 'prisoners' and 'guards' and watching the growing sadism of those given arbitrary power). Golding tackles this in most of his novels, but perhaps most simply and movingly in this one. It is a beautifully crafted book, interweaving convincing characters with intricate symbolism effortlessly, in a deceptively simple style.
The high imaginative concept of all Golding's novels is what appeals so much to me. If you've only read LOTF, why not try The Inheritors, which takes the concept of the Garden of Eden and overlays it on credible anthropology, with the focus of the book being on a group of Neanderthals who try to understand the coming of 'the new people', i.e. modern man: us. As with LOTF, innocence and 'evil' are contrasted and it is a tragic novel, but an imaginative tour de force as Golding sheds modern sensibilities to imagine a world view from the simple Neanderthals' perspective.
My favourite is perhaps The Spire, which adds a little more complexity to the good/evil question (increasingly the case in the later novels). Here, the Dean of a medieval cathedral believes he has had a vision from God to erect a huge spire on the building, even though structurally, the cathedral should not be able to support it. Dean Jocelin becomes one of Golding's most fascinating characters and the novel eventually becomes as much as anything an esoteric journey into his mind.
This journey is also undertaken in Pincher Martin, which is one of the very few novels I wanted to re-read the moment I finished. Golding's books nearly all finish with a startling change of perception that hits you like a hammer, but this one changed everything I had understood about the book. Can't say more than that otherwise it would spoil it.
You might have watched the recent To the Ends of the Earth trilogy adaptation, but really it's only the first book, Rites of Passage, that's worth reading. He never actually intended a trilogy, since the story wasn't meant to be about the sea voyage to Australia, rather about a series of events that happen to the characters (inspired by a 'real life' story he had heard about a parson who had literally willed himself to death). When later novels were less sussessful, though, he returned to the voyage - which had sold well - and completed it.
Whenever there is news of the terrible things that people do, I so often find my thoughts turning back to Golding and his insights about 'The Beast'. Especially when children are involved, as in the terrible murder of Jamie Bulger - about which Golding wrote one of his very last newspaper articles shortly before his death. There may not be a vast range to the ideas he tackles in all his novels, but there is a compelling depth and constant re-imagining of one of the oldest themes in our existence, reaching right back to the stories of Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel. He once claimed he knew the Bible by heart (doubt that extended to A begat B begat C...), and whilst the religious dimension is undoubtedly there, it is never obtrusive or preachy. You don't need to be religious to believe in evil, after all!
Well, those are some of my favourites; what do others think of Golding?