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Reverend Colley

Reverend Robert James Colley appears in the first book of Golding’s Sea Trilogy, Rites of Passage, and is often mentioned in the following two volumes. He is first described as an ‘awkward young parson’, and is despised by Captain Anderson, in what becomes known as a ‘Church vs. State’ battle. Colley is approached by narrator Edmund Talbot to perform a service on the ship, despite Talbot irritation with Colley’s ostentatiously deferent manner.

Colley’s life on the ship becomes increasingly difficult and in an attempt to fit in, he takes to drinking heavily. He disgraces himself by drunkenly urinating in front of a horrified crowd, then blessing them while half-naked. Colley retreats to his cabin, and Talbot is tasked with trying to draw him out. Colley’s lower class status is a driver for his ill-treatment; Summers states that ‘the man has stepped out of his station without any merit to support the elevation’.

Colley’s decline and depression causes Talbot to consider whether the public urination was the worst offence that Colley had committed. He discovers Colley’s journal, which reveals what really happened next…