William Golding

(1911 - 1993), British Novelist

William Golding was an author and poet best known for the novel ‘Lord of the Flies’. He produced 11 other novels throughout his life. Among his accolades, he was knighted in 1988 and received the Nobel Prize for literature.

Life Facts

  • Golding was born in 1911 in his grandmother’s house in Newquay, Cornwall.
  • He worked as a teacher and was a member of the British Navy during World War II.
  • His first novel, Lord of the Flies was written in 1954.
  • Golding died in 1993 from a heart attack.
  • His final novel was published posthumously.

Interesting Facts

  • His first novel was rejected 21 times before it was finally published, albeit with a new title and the beginning removed.
  • While in the navy he was present at the D-Day landings and the sinking of the Bismarck.
  • He was given a knighthood by the Queen.
  • Golding has admitted to being a “brat” as a child and once claimed he enjoyed hurting people.

Famous Books by William Golding

‘Lord of the Flies’ – His most famous work is an allegorical tale of a group of boys who find themselves trapped on an island and descend into savagery.

‘The Inheritors’ – A work of prehistoric fiction, the novel looks at the extension of a group of ancient men at the hand of homo sapiens.

‘Pincher Martin’ – This is one of Golding’s better-known novels and deals with a character who believes he is the sole survivor of a torpedo strike and is floating at sea.

‘Free Fall’ – Continuing the theme of people dealing with tough circumstances, this novel looks at a character held in a prisoner of war camp.

‘The Spire’ – This book was written in a stream of consciousness with an increasingly unreliable narrator. It is about choosing to follow free will instead of the will of God.

Early Life

Golding was born in his Grandmother’s house in the seaside town of Newquay in Cornwall. Interestingly, the house name was Karenza which is the Cornish word for “love.” He grew up in Wiltshire, where his father worked as a science teacher, although the family often took their holidays in Cornwall.

Golding’s mother was an avid campaigner for female rights, and it seems at first glance that she had an impact on Golding’s views. However, in a private memoir to his wife, he claims he once attempted to rape an underage girl.

After finishing his time at Oxford, Golding promptly published a poetry collection and began working as a teacher. In 1940, he joined the navy to aid with the war effort. He returned 5 years later and embarked on his writing career.

Literary Career

Golding began writing ‘Lord of the Flies’ in 1951. Initially, it was titled ‘Strangers from Within.’ It was rejected an incredible 21 times before a new editor at Faber and Faber suggested some changes and gave Golding his opportunity to publish it.

Golding moved from Salisbury to a nearby town in 1958 and befriended James Lovelock. The two discussed ideas about the mysteries of the universe and became close friends. Their ideas were published, and this scored Golding a writing residency in the US, which allowed him to leave teaching.

He produced a few works that were never released, including a novel set in a British school and an account of sailing the south coast of England.

In addition to this, Golding kept a journal consistently throughout most of his life. This began as a dream diary of sorts but evolved to include what was happening in his life, ideas for stories, and various other things. At the time of his death, the sum of these journals was more than 20 million words.

He struggled to make it as a writer in his career’s infancy (his writing was described by one editor at Faber and Faber as being “dull” and “pointless”). He ended up winning several awards for his writing. Not least of all was a Nobel Prize for his literature, a decision which many find questionable. He also won a Booker Prize for ‘Rites of Passage’ in 1980.

War Service

Golding joined the Royal Navy in 1940. He enlisted to help with the war effort. He served on a class of ship known as a destroyer which was involved in the sinking of the Bismarck. He was also involved in the invasion of Normandy, where his ship launched rocket salvos onto beaches. These experiences, including surveying the carnage afterward, had a profound effect on Golding and informed his writing. This can be seen in his quotes such as “Man produces evil as a bee produces honey.” from the book ‘The Nature of Man’.

Many believed that he suffered from PTSD following his experiences.


Golding and his wife moved to Cornwall in 1985. Eight years later, he passed away from heart failure. He was later buried in Wiltshire, where he had spent much of his early life.

Influence on Golding’s Writing

Golding’s works were heavily influenced by his own experiences. Among his characters were teachers, naval officers, and writers, all roles that he had fulfilled himself.

Literature by William Golding

Explore literature by William Golding below, created by the team at Book Analysis.