Skip to main content

New study into William Golding’s manuscripts and letters to offer fresh insights into the creation of Lord of the Flies

Molly Thatcher, a third-year undergraduate at the University of Exeter, has been awarded a paid internship to bring to a wider audience to one of the most important literary manuscripts of the 20th century.

A yellowing exercise book with the cover ripped off; it may not look especially enticing, but the first draft of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is one of the treasures held in the University’s Special Collections. Golding was born in Newquay, and spent his entire life in the South West. After winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1983, he returned to Cornwall, where he died in 1993. In 2014, his family placed the drafts and notebooks of all his published novels on loan at the University.

Now, thanks to the financial support of the College of Humanities, Molly will transcribe passages from the Lord of the Flies manuscript that had been dropped before publication, as well as correspondence about the novel between Golding and his editor at Faber & Faber, Charles Monteith.

Prof Tim Kendall, Academic Director of Special Collections, said: “Monteith insisted on a number of changes: a description of nuclear war was cut, as was a more detailed characterisation of Simon, a boy whose mystical powers, in the first draft, allow him to communicate directly with God. Molly’s contribution will be invaluable in helping us to understand how Lord of the Flies evolved from a dog-eared manuscript rejected by countless publishers into one of most influential novels of the last century.”

Molly said: “I am looking forward to getting started, and drawing out a more complex understanding of how this monumental classic came into being. Threats of nuclear war and images of apocalyptic burning forests still permeate the social consciousness, making this prestigious project work invaluable. By considering the editorial revisions of the novel, from concept to print, the project will hopefully highlight the contemporary discourses of power, and ultimately invite comparison to modern debates.”