Lord of the Flies is one of those books that you are made to read at school and all you can usually remember is the conch and poor old Piggy. With the demise of the parson Colley in Rites of Passage it is clear that Golding is in a field of his own when it comes to writing about bullying.
It is not just a case of school ground stuff, although it does seem to be no better than that, but describes how groups can turn and lives can be destroyed. In this case the poor parson, who has been bullied by the captain for something out of his control – the later man’s hatred of men of the cloth – faces something much worse. Because the captain has allowed a climate of hate to build up against Colley it is almost inevitable on a hot slow moving ship that it will spill over. When it does it destroys poor old Colley. Not only does he get drunk but then allows himself to be given oral sex by a sailor who he had been struggling to control his emotions over. The recollection of the events after he sobers up literally kills the parson. He decides to die in his cabin rather than remerge and seek some sort of forgiveness.
All this becomes clear after the event though. Using a literary device of Talbot printing Colley’s private latter to his sister the full sorry side of Colley’s story comes out. The final sad details emerge after an investigation and the free comments of the sailors involved.
The first book ends with the voyage still going on but a stage in it complete. The death of Colley – an innocent out of his depth – stirs some people to look at their own behaviour. From a reader’s perspective it makes you think about how cruel people, including yourself can be, and you make a secret resolve never to be one of those watching and laughing when a Colley type figure is overwhelmed by public cruelty.
A review will follow soon…