Golding visited Australia in 1975, and he was fascinated by the country, describing it as a place of ‘clear light and clean emptiness’. He was particularly moved by the history of Indigenous Australians.
Tormented by his desire, Matty moves from London to Australia. Golding writes that ‘it was typical of Matty’s jagged and passionate character that once he had decided to go away he should go as far as humanly possible’ (68). He goes first to Melbourne, and has a ‘mostly happy’ first year. But the realisation that even the kindest of people are repulsed by his scarred face unsettles him, and he begins to wear a black hat to cover it: ‘Piece by piece, he became the man in black’ (71). After four years, he moves around, from Sydney to Brisbane, until the desire to return home overwhelms him. He starts a curious ritual outside the State House with matchboxes and fire, and is sent back to England. On leaving Australia, he is emotional.
‘He went back up again to the deck and stood again, still, silent and staring at the continent he knew he was seeing for the last time. A single drop of water rolled out of his good eye, found a quick way down his cheek and fell on the deck. His mouth was making little movements, but he said nothing.’
Australia is the destination 0f Edmund Talbot’s ship in ‘The Sea Trilogy’ and as such, is only reached in the final book, Fire Down Below. The books are set during the British colonisation of Australia, and Talbot has the opportunity to prove his worth by taking on a governing role there. Golding weaves fact with fiction by including a character called Macquarie, who is based on the real Governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie. Macquarie is Talbot’s superior in Australia and is keen that Talbot should relay news of ‘what he had accomplished [in Australia] in the short time which had been available to him’ (334). On her arrival at Sydney Cove, Marion Chumley displays a fearful attitude towards the residents of Australia – both the British settlers and the Indigenous Australians. Talbot is quick to correct this attitude.