I find it hard to believe that it is 60 years since William Golding’s Lord of The Flies was first published. I remember studying it for my O-level (remember those anyone?) in English Literature. I can still quote great chunks of it if called upon and its characters leapt vividly back to life in my mind when I saw the article linked below.
It is characters that make a book come to life, make it breathe. And it is characters who live on after you finish reading a book. Without good characters, I don’t think you can have a truly great book. Which is why Trollope, with his minutely observed characters, who lived perpetually in the author’s mind, wrote such great, memorable novels. The characters are all recognisably human and rarely descend to caricature. They are flawed, rounded human beings. Even those for whom Trollope felt the greatest affinity, perhaps them more than the others, have their all too human failings exposed. But it is always done with a sympathetic understanding. More, they are allowed to grow and develop over the course of a novel, or in the case of the series, over a number of novels. The stiff, priggish Plantagenet Palliser who appears in Can You Forgive Her? is an older, wiser and more flexible man, albeit still highly principled, in The Duke’s Children.
Trollope’s sole literary venture into Pacific Islands, The Fixed Period, was perhaps a little ahead of its time – though I feel it is actually a very English take on a fantastic future that stands comparison with Jules Verne’s more adventure yarn approach that is broadly its contemporary. Trollope showed a society that was loosely modelled on England but transported to the Pacific and, in his very different way, that is what Golding did in Lord of The Flies, recreating the world of the English public school complete with its arcane rules and bullying – albeit taken to visceral extremes that were suppressed in the original.