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Submitted Literature

The Pyramid

By William Golding


In The Pyramid, a novel about the class-made deadness or entombment of the village of Stilbourne, an upwardly mobile protagonist, Oliver is readily irritated, frustrated, and angry towards both the limited world of his lower-middle-class parents and his upper-middle-class ‘superiors’, such as Bobby, the doctor’s son.  Throughout, the inhabitants of Stilbourne are portrayed as zombie-like on account of their petty, provincial, class-ridden lives and a strong sense of ‘living death’ is intensified in the many references to insanity and hell. Indeed, madness is presented as a key feature or even consequence of a class-obsessed society. Mrs Babbacombe, who greets those outside her class, is considered mad.  There are several ‘oddballs’ such as the eccentric, old Mr Dawlish, and a ‘strange lady wearing many skirts and a vast hat full of dead leaves’ (PY, 163).  Then there is Bounce Dawlish, the piano teacher, who is removed to a mental hospital after she walks naked through the town: ‘Bounce pacing along the pavement with her massive bosom, thick stomach and rolling, ungainly haunches; Bounce wearing her calm smile, her hat and gloves and flat shoes - and wearing nothing else whatsoever’ (PY, 207).  In later life, Bounce is portrayed as an archetypal dotty or demented woman in a cat-infested house.  Oliver himself has a history of cyclothymic mood swings and occasional violence, not least towards his piano.


For a full critical reading of The Pyramid see Crawford, P. (2002) Politics and History in William Golding: The World Turned Upside Down. University of Missouri Press: Columbia, pp.115-145.

Key Themes:

  • Dementia / Alzheimer's
  • Obsessions
  • Societal Pressure

Reference: William, Golding. 1967. The Pyramid. Faber and Faber, 1969


Professor Paul Crawford
Date Review Submitted: Friday 14th August 2009