As many of Golding’s novels feature aspects of survival, hunger is a recurrent theme.
Shipwrecked Christopher Martin, who is stuck on a rock in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, is slowly starving to death. The only food available are limpets, mussels and sea snails, which Martin struggles to eat. He refers to the limpets as ‘sweets’ in an attempt to force them down. This diet of raw seafood causes constipation and food poisoning, and he is eventually forced to give himself an enema: ‘like the bursting of a dam, the smashing of all hindrance’.
The Neanderthal people are constantly battling to find enough food to survive. They don’t hunt for animals, although they will eat meat if the kill has been performed by something else. The novel opens in the Spring, and Lok begins to imagine all kinds of food:
‘Now they had left the dank winter cave by the sea and the bitter unnatural tasting food of beach and salt marsh he had a sudden picture of good things, of honey and young shoots, of bulbs and grubs, of sweet and wicked meat.’
Lok and Fa try to ensure that Liku has enough to eat, and a particularly exciting food is some honey from a beehive.
The struggle for survival and food resources drives the action of the novel. When Lok sees the ‘new people’, he understands that they are in famine, and that they would soon die if they don’t get anything to eat. The new people’s solution to their hunger is unbearable…