Stranded on a rock in the middle of the Atlantic, Christopher Martin suffers from insomnia. Sleep represents both comfort and fear to Martin: ‘Sleep is when all the unsorted stuff comes flying out as from a dustbin upset by a bin’. His waking thoughts are haunted by a recurring nightmare he had as a child, ‘of the whatever it was in the cellar coming out of the corner’. In this memory, the ‘night world’ is when ‘things harmless in the daytime [came] to life’. However, in Martin’s adult life, both day and night are filled with horror.
Martin’s dream is based on one that Golding himself experienced.