The Condition of England: The Pyramid and Darkness Visible

Part of the Macmillan Modern Novelists book series (MONO)


Golding has always been a self-critical writer, as in his acknowledgement that his early fiction might be more concerned with ideas than with people. The Pyramid, published in 1967, can be read as his deliberate attempt to extend his range by using fiction to depict human character with more variety and particularity than he had before, or he might have wanted simply to try something else. The novel also apparently evolved differently from the others. Whereas the earlier novels like The Inheritors or Pincher Martin were single concepts which, although perhaps the product of a long period of gestation, were written with concentrated speed, The Pyramid seems to have been written in stages. Two of the novel's three parts appeared earlier in periodicals, the first part in Kenyon Review, the third part in Esquire. The focus on individualised characters and the less intensely singular method of construction create a novel without the severe dramatic and tragic intensity of the earlier fiction. The Pyramid presents man more as a semi-comic creature, able to choose and to learn, not locked in the potentially tragic dichotomies of his intrinsic nature. Whereas the other novels all depicted human experience at its extremity, at one or another penetrating version of its insolubility, The Pyramid, in the three episodes that trace the growth of Oliver's understanding, draws on a less metaphysical, more complex, perhaps more ordinary and familiar version of human experience.


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© James Gindin 1988

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