Darkness Visible*

*1979 novel by William Golding

Nicola Presley, writing for William-golding.co.uk:

“Darkness Visible is the most mysterious of all Golding’s novels, and he famously refused to discuss it during his lifetime. It is an astonishing achievement, and is his most modern book, with themes of terrorism, spirituality, multiculturalism and sexual politics. Darkness Visible is divided into three parts, although these are joined together in a subtle but deft manner.”

Kevin McCarron: The Coincidence of OppositesWilliam Golding’s later fiction (1995):

“…In Totem and Taboo, Freud writes: “The human race, if we are to follow the authorities, have in the course of ages developed three great pictures of the universe: animistic (or mythological), religious and scientific”. Sophy’s vision of the world is animistic, Matty’s is religious, and Sim’s is scientific. A clear parallel with the beliefs of Golding’s principal characters will be observable in Freud’s description of these “pictures”:

At the animistic stage men ascribe omnipotence to themselves. At the religious stage they transfer it to the gods but do not seriously abandon it themselves, for they reserve the power of influencing the gods…The scientific view of the universe no longer affords any room for human omnipotence; men have acknowledged their smallness and submitted resignedly to death and to the other necessities of nature.

Freud could be describing the attitudes of Sophy, Matty, and Sim.

A similar understanding can be found in the work of Gabriel Vahanian, and the sociologist Richard Stivers summarises his views on this issue…Vahanian, like Freud, could be referring to Sophy, Matty, and Sim. Despite the ordering of Golding’s novel, Darkness Visible can also be viewed as the dramatic expression of the ultimate Hegelian triad: Idea, Nature, Spirit. Because the triad is cyclical, the rational Sim Goodchild can be considered the thesis, “Idea”, the primitive Sophy as the antithesis, “Nature”, and the visionary Matty, who begins in flames and ends in the same manner, as the synthesis, “Spirit”. In The Philosophy of Hegel, Stace writes,

spirit, as the final term of the triad idea, nature, spirit, is the absolute end, and therefore the true beginning, the foundation of all…

A similar cyclical continuum is also expressed in Revelation, the Biblical book which is of more importance than any other to Matty: “Look! I am making all things new…I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end”…”

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