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Death

Pincher Martin

Christopher Martin’s desire to defeat death forms the narrative of this whole novel, as he battles to survive. Early on, he declares ‘I shall live!’ in defiance at his situation, although as time goes on with no rescue, the pain of survival threatens to overwhelm. In a flashback, he remembers how his friend Nathaniel predicted his early death, and how he urged him to consider his life in order to enter heaven. Martin scorned these warnings and uses this memory as an impetus for survival. As his strength fades, another flashback features Nathaniel telling him about a new heaven, one which ‘we inven[t] for ourselves after death, if we aren’t ready for the real one’. This heaven is a ‘sort of black lightning, destroying everything that we call life’.

‘The Scorpion God’

Death, and its aftermath, is perhaps the key theme in ‘The Scorpion God’. Golding had a lifelong fascination with Ancient Egypt, and in particular, the Ancient Egyptians’ view on death. The Pharaoh, who has failed in his God-like tasks, is told that it is time for a ‘beginning’, meaning the start of his immortality in the afterlife. His servants have to poison themselves and join him in the tomb, although his favourite, the Liar, refuses.  In this story, death is not seen as an end – life itself is merely the prelude.