The Metaphor: Pincher Martin, Free Fall and The Spire

Part of the Macmillan Modern Novelists book series (MONO)


Those who regarded Golding's first two novels as fully explained by the form of the fable were puzzled and intrigued at the appearance of Pincher Martin in 1956. Although the novel seems to be the story of a war-time sailor whose ship has been torpedoed, clinging to a rock in the cold North Atlantic in an effort to survive, we learn conclusively at the end, when his body is washed ashore, that he died at the beginning of the novel. He had never had time to kick off his boots as Golding describes him as doing before climbing on to the rock on the fourth page. Golding's treatment removes the dimension of time, focuses attention on the depiction of man in a timeless, universal state. The form of fable, in which narrative progress suggests the author's values by a consecutive account of what has happened, a linear chain that conveys a version of what causes what, can provide no satisfactory explanation for a narrative that does not involve time, progress and causation. Even long before the recognition that the sailor, Christopher Martin, called ‘Pincher’, the standard nickname for Martins in the Royal Navy (here the Christ-bearer turned into the character who appropriates what belongs to others for himself), has been dead all along, Golding provides numerous indications that the novel is not a linear struggle for survival. Besides the name, Pincher is a symbolic man, isolàted in timeless symbolic space – ‘everywhere the darkness was grainless and alike. There was no wreckage, no sinking hull, no struggling survivors but himself, there was only darkness lying close against the balls of his eyes’ (Chapter I). In addition, the possibilities for rescue are undercut from the very beginning of the novel. Shapes cannot be ships, from Pincher's human point of view, and the shadows of size


Human Nature Apple Tree Metaphorical Concept Successive Revelation Morality Play 
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© James Gindin 1988

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