(réf.  Etudes Britanniques Contemporaines n° 4. Montpellier: Presses universitaires de Montpellier, 1994)


The way up and the way down:
W. Golding's Darkness Visible and P. White's Voss

Nadia D'Amelio (école d'interprètes internationaux, Université de Mons)


Patrick White's Voss and William Golding's Darkness Visible single themselves out as authentic fictional endeavours to unravel modem man's predicament. To show how a common intellectual concern can spark off intimately related, yet widely varied, artistic achievements is the aim of this paper.

White and later Golding embarked on the same kind of enterprise. While Voss draws upon the historical journeys of the Australian explorer Ludwig Leichhardt into the Australian wilderness in 1845-48, Darkness Visible is, of all Golding's novels, the one that best mirrors English contemporary history. "And the war did the rest," White remarked on the genesis of his masterpiece. So it did, as we know, for Golding: the protagonist, Matty, was born out of the London Blitz and, like Voss at the start, Sophy has affinities with the megalomaniac Hitler. What matters above all, however, is that both writers, while making use of the historical facts and picturing social realities, eventually subserve their philosophical aim: to show that man must be humbled to annihilation before he can realize himself, or before the god in him may triumph. Voss is not a historical novel even though it provides an accurate picture of the Sydney society which gravitates around the protagonists and of the primitive society in which it is set. Neither should Darkness Visible be read only as a fictional account of the great political, social and philosophical changes that have given the English society a new, polyphonic, or rather cacophonic voice.

The settings chosen by White and Golding share basic common ground. To Sydney and the mysterious bush interior correspond Golding's London suburbs and the same Australian outback into which Matty exiles himself in search of identity and purpose. Exactly as in J. Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the "burning centre" of the foreign continent is


seen in both novels as the place where revelation is possible. Likewise their inner structural patterns bear striking similarities. A binary structure informs both novels. Each novel is inevitably marked by the prominence of its two protagonists' experiences. Just as Laura Travelyan's self and her society intersect with Voss's self and party, so Matty crosses Sophy's path several times. Yet a true meeting and recognition is never allowed in any of the two novels. Their protagonists' respective journeys develop along the lines of two different circles. Their metaphysical meaning finds conscious expression in the visionary outbursts of their characters, in Voss's and Laura's letters, in Voss's poems, in Matty's diary, in Sophy's dreams and hallucinations. One must recognize the essential message of these two novels as it is epitomized in "How important it is to understand the three stages. Of God into man. Man. And man returning into God" (Voss 386).

Where exactly each author places his characters on this underlying pattern of descent and ascent is the subject of our study: where and how each character is moved away from individual willpower and self-glorification up to the point of becoming when the God in man and man are woven together, how deep the descent the spiritual explorers are ready to make is, so as to either annihilate the self or accept human limits. Indeed, the central thesis from which this paper unfolds is that, as Beatson puts it, "behind the appearances of the material world there is a Hidden God (1)."

Whereas God never actually appears in White's pages nothing in Voss, from the party's Christian vision of Palfreyman's death to the ominous passage of the Comet, is explicable without an act of poetic faith in his existence. In Darkness Visible Golding sends God's messengers to Matty the Mystic, whose visions strike the reader with their innocence and purity. Whereas Laura and Voss painfully learn to turn to others for redemption and human completeness, Sophy stands up against the true centre of her own being to create nothingness, refuses to answer the "call" in an act of outrage and deifies her own will to destruction. In both novels, the authors aim is a cosmic one: what, they wonder, is the true nature of the divine within humanity, and how is it to be realized. They set themselves a task of great magnitude involving an exploration of the strata of man's mind from superficial consciousness to the most uncontrollable depths of the unconscious. In styles therefore unrestrictive yet disciplined, both writers have given form and life to sustained symbolic allegories whose wholeness rests on that of the original idea of the three stages of spiritual life.

In both novels the main characters (Laura, Voss in Voss, Matty, Sophy in Darkness Visible) are complementary. Laura Travelyan begins the novel as a proud and self-sufficient rationalist prig; she does not conceal her fascinated revulsion for the coarse


1. BEATSON, Peter. The Eye in the Mandala. P. White: a Vision of Man and God. London: Paul Elek, 1976, p. 7.



bodies of her servants and her dislike of the rough, hostile land. Through her very presence, however, Voss's pretensions to divinity are magnified into blaring assertions, the demonic claims of a self-deluded Faustian romantic. Through contact with Voss's hybris, Laura, for her part, becomes aware of her moral flaws - a pallid shadow when compared to Voss's. While Voss launches into an agonized journey in the heat of the desert towards ultimate damnation, Laura resolves to struggle within the limitations of her life. Voss, on the contrary, yearns to will himself out of any human restriction, including the body. Laura gradually wills herself into the physical realities and eventually triumphs when she embraces - literally and figuratively - her pregnant servant Rose. Rose, herself an embodiment of the more elemental aspects of Laura, just as Laura is for Voss, is also an apt personification of Australia, of the spirit of the Continent: ugly, inarticulate, brown, monotonous, capable only of breeding and immense suffering. Through her, Laura is born to the physical world with its joys and sufferings. Having gained the knowledge and wisdom of the body through Rose's and Voss's deaths, through the birth of "her" daughter, she can, in the third part of the novel, reach the final stage of her spiritual journey: the wisdom of the dissolution of the body, detachment and love. While she follows her own path, Laura never fails Voss, knowing that he is not so much a sinner as a genuine spiritual quester lost in self-delusion.

To draw the map of Australia, the map of his own mind, Voss readily mortifies his body and sacrifices others in the harsh landscape of his interior desert. Paradoxically, Voss is almost monastic, but perversely. Laura is there to activate and treaten the man in him, in spite of his will. The more he denies his need for companionship, love and union, the stronger its claims are felt in hallucinations of beauty and sexual marriage. Yet he refuses almost to the end to own his need openly, voluntarily and naturally. Only when he is taken prisoner by the Aborigines does he cry out his need for love and admit to his wounded helplessness. He cries out to Christ, assisted by Laura only on her sick bed in Sydney. But his head must be sacrificed if he is to reach the third stage. Voss is decapitated, his blood drunken up by the Australian soil. For Voss, the third stage combines aboriginal eschatology with Christian faith. Before the soul can ascend to God, it must first descend into matter, and then by Grace, turn to the end of the cycle. Only by experiencing wounds and joys in the flesh can the higher principle fulfil its destiny, assuming humility without shame. In Voss the necessity of the descent is expressed largely through images of sexual union. The dominant motif is marriage. Voss and Laura are not alone to seek union in a hallucinated relationship. The imagery extends to nature and suggests the cosmic merging of Light and Matter:



. . . the surface of a striped mirror, or beaded stool, or some object in cut glass bred triumphantly with the lustier of those beams which entered through the half-closed shutters. (Voss 11)
In those eyes the hills and valleys lay still, but expectant, or responded in ripples of leaf and grass, dutifully, to their bridegroom the sun, till all vision overflowed with the liquid gold of complete union (Voss 165)

When light and matter merge in Golding's novel, they spark off apocalyptic scenes or miraculous visions, but never the flame of sexual union.

In White's novel, Voss and Laura are doubles or counterparts, mirror images of each other From the very outset, Voss and Laura reflect each other's arrogance and isolation: their early selves share presumed self-sufficiency, total reliance on the intellect, distrust of emotion, and active aversion to physical expression. The opening scene of Voss is quite enlightening: Voss had come to the Bonners' house in order to meet the chief sponsor of his planned expedition. The Bonners are at church, but Laura has stayed at home pleading a headache. Actually she has recently decided not to believe in God, because the concept of religion cannot sustain rational inquiry. When Voss and Laura meet, her priggishness clearly parallels his distaste for the physical world. As Laura discloses snug self-reliance, Voss also claims his belief that others are unnecessary to him. Their location in the room reinforces our sense that they are mirror images. Indeed, they sit "in almost identical positions, on simple chairs, on either side of the generous window" (Voss 11-12).

The parallelism becomes even more obvious when they express their views on God. That Laura should have abandoned her faith horrifies Voss who states at a later meeting with her that "Atheism is self-murder" Voss, p. 89. Actually, Voss acknowledges no divinity but himself. The Moravian Brother Mueller is White's mouthpiece when he explains to Voss: "You have a contempt for God, because He is not in your own image." His experience will teach him that atheism is indeed self-murder because the divine is immanent in all men and creatures. Laura's response to Voss's "Weltanschaung" is first distress because she realizes the monstrous nature of his pride and the risks Voss is taking. To quote Laura's later reaction:

It was clear. She saw him standing in the glare of his own brilliant desert. Of course,
He was Himself indestructible.
And she did then begin to pity him. She no longer pitied himself. . . . Love seemed to return to her with humility. Her weakness was delectable. (Voss 87)



Such a complete reversal may be doubtful. Love and humility are not so quickly recovered. And, in fact, Laura spends the rest of the novel in the effort. What is, however, quite convincing, is that, from that moment onwards, Laura begins to put Voss in the proper perspective and, moreover, to mirror Voss from the adjusted, right angle. From then on, the flaws she shares with him will come out in sharper and more painful focus. Laura gives full expression to this stage in the mind's exploration journey when she claims that Voss has become her own desert, as the third person narrator puts it. Through involvement with him, she enlists herself as one of the "few stubborn one blunder on, painfully, out of the luxuriant world of their own pretensions into the desert of mortification and reward." Like the later twins, Arthur and Waldo Brown in The Solid Mandala, Voss and Laura stand for the parted halves of a whole which long to be reconciled and reintegrated. Much of the endeavour set by the novel to the two characters is to come to terms with those aspects of each other which they have ignored or even repudiated in themselves. Thus, Voss must own impulses towards gentleness, self-effacement, and the giving and the receiving of love. Similarly, Laura must deal with the pride which still marks her wilful profession of humility, and also her hate of the physical world. Both Voss and Laura must overcome their wished-for insulation and incompleteness, in part through the union with each other, even if the union never occurs in the material world. As in the case of the later twins, when one half vanishes, the reader is left to question the wholeness of the other. The disappearance also compels the other to carry on alone. Laura is the survivor in Voss, and her life not only parallels Voss's exploratory will; it also makes it accessible to the reader. Laura can be seen as Voss's mirror image but also as his mediator. Dealing with an unkind, cruel, sometimes sadistic protagonist, White uses Laura to secure sympathy for the uncouth megalomaniac Voss, inspired by Hitler. The difficulty of inducing readers to take interest in Voss is overcome through Laura's less strident translation of the man. Laura actually shares many of Voss's tendencies, yet she indulges them on a comparatively reduced scale. Moreover, Laura's is not the only point of view given on the German explorer. White's perspective on him is largely ironic. Irony arises from the use of multiple viewpoints which counterbalance and enlighten each other. Only in the scenes involving Voss and herself does White let Laura provide the necessary ironic undercutting. Elsewhere, she is the victim of a similar operation. In a nutshell, one emotional act of Voss's, complacently approved by him, calls forth Laura's pity or tenderness but also induces scorn or amusement on the part of the narrator. In the end, our apprehension of Voss, and of Laura on a lesser scale, is deeply ambivalent and unsettling. Actually, the reader recognizes that the Faustian or Promethean explorer and his female mate fail to reach the inhuman perfection which they feel coud be



within their grasp. Deification and sainthood must not be willed. Thus White's characters have to be brought down from the deceitful heights of self-deification onto a long pattern of descent through physical pain, torture and humiliation, leading them to be true men, in life or death. The mysterious, excruciating, and major meaning of failure turns out to be the healing of spiritual wounds.

Much can be learned from the way White uses desert climate and scenery to reflect the equally vast and forbidding ground of Voss's soul. Like the Marabar Caves of E.M. Forster's Passage to India, White's Australian outback seems a landscape of incontrovertible power, but which also reflects and responds to the state of the soul that is brought to it. The novel's allegorical landscape remains one of its most stunning achievements, but it is crucial as well to realize that Voss moves in an allegorical human landscape where the characters offer the choices he must make to reclaim his forsaken humanity. Of course, Le Mesurier, Judd, Palfreyman and the others also function as characters in their own right, and elicit our response to their own predicaments. Nonetheless they derive their most powerful meaning through their relation to Voss. All of them act as catalysts of Voss's transformation where he is led to resume humanity or the human status in which he, paradoxically, approaches the godhead he once sought to be. As Laura puts it: "When man is truly humbled, when he has learned that he is not God, then he is nearest to becoming so. In the end, he may ascend" (Voss 387). Voss communicates with Laura by letter, by dream and vision. The spiritual distance Voss covers between his "rickety throne" and the twig hut in which he dies is measured by a final series of dreams and visions of Laura in which sexual and religious imagery interweave to suggest Voss's acceptance of his human state: mortality, fleshy pains and bliss, and a Christlike capacity for love. Therefore Voss and Laura celebrate a Eucharist to mark Voss's resumption of the flesh. At the same time, the mingled orders of imagery force our awareness that the flesh is holy. No profane views are discarded from the Whitean realm of the holy. Sacred and profane are of the order of existence.

Like Voss, Laura is incomplete. She has developed her rational life to the exclusion of the emotional and sexual. Like Voss, she is brought to acknowledge neglected aspects of the self and to accept these as they are presented to her through a pair of characters, namely Rose and Belle. Rose Portion, the Bonners' maid, first exasperates Laura's sense of aesthetics through her animal, heavy, stupid presence. Yet it is through Rose's very humanity that Laura learns to come to terms with her sexuality. In the course of Rose's pregnancy and the birth of her bastard daughter Mercy, Laura overcomes her revulsion to physical contact. Eventually, the very body of the woman in labour and its burden become her own. When describing Mercy's birth, White creates a careful ambiguity of pronominal



reference to suggest that Laura too has been delivered The scene emphasizes the continuity of life; the child achieves a symbolic role too: that of a saving grace, as its name expresses it. Laura adopts Mercy as a token of love, the "visible token of the love with which she was filled." The child is necessary in the whole scheme of Redemption, mainly to function as the means of Christian salvation Laura's humility, in which she sometimes revels as Voss does in his pride, must fail her when she demands that the child be sent away, as an act of true sacrifice on behalf or Voss's salvation. This occurs when she is at the height of the fever she has to suffer in Sydney, and when Voss is captured, imprisoned, and murdered. Laura will later realize that, at the moment of choice, her "will wavered" in the matter of Mercy's removal from her affection. White sees the wavering of will positively, as a healing failure breeding physical and spiritual growth.

Belle Bonner offers a visual contrast to Laura: golden light enhanced by the grey and blue light surrounding Laura. Belle's warmth and expression of her feelings are made to take part in Laura's experience of humanity. Indeed, Laura must be awoken to what pleases in the life of the flesh as to what repels. At Belle's wedding, Laura takes steps in that direction and almost owns, besides her need to support Voss in his moral plan, her wish to be man and wife with the explorer. The process of acceptance of humility is, however, long and painful. Laura is not "resurrected" to humanity in one step, however major. It proves to be a lifelong endeavour and, indeed, ordeal.

Darkness Visible occupies a privileged position in Golding's work. In it, Golding explores, as Don Crompton puts it:

Those subjects that trouble and fascinate him most - the extremities of behaviour of which men are capable, their propensities for absolute good or evil, their endlessly paradoxical saintliness and sinfulness. And behind these lie the mysteries of the spiritual world that continually surround us but are largely closed to us, invisible, forgotten or ignored for much of most men's lives . (2)

Golding penetrates and tries to see through the darkness and mysteries that challenge explorers of the human soul. His work is built around two equally spiritual characters, though they stand at opposite poles: Matty and Sophy. The first part is devoted to Matty's ascent to Redemption, the second explores Sophy's descent through outrage to utter damnation: the third part, besides bringing the agents of God and Evil up against each other, also describes average people interacting with them. Whereas White uses the image of the


2.CROMPTON, Don. A View from the Spire. Oxford & New York: Basil Blackwell, 1985, P. 94.


mandala as the underlying pattern of his novel, Golding resorts to a diagrammatic scheme and places his characters on straight lines of evolution. Much meaning can be yielded from a confrontation of Voss's unflinching willpower and Sophy's dark schemes born out of sheer will. On the other hand, where Voss recognizes his spiritual challenger in Palfreyman, Sophy must come to grips with her own spiritual challenger, Matty. Both Palfreyman and Matty are sent on an exploratory journey by their sense of failure in human love. As Palfreyman failed to return his hunchbacked sister's affection, in the same way, Matty's quest journey clearly starts off when he assumes that he is responsible for young Henderson's accidental death. Both believers must measure up that dedication to saintly ends against the spiritual sinners of each novel. Voss is presented, from the outset, as the leader of the expedition into the Australian outback. The catalysts or helpers of his spiritual quest are paired: Harry and Frank Le Mesurier, Jackie and Dugal, Palfreyman and Judd. In Darkness Visible, Matty finds adjuvants in a mysterious and beautiful glass ball, in the reading of the Bible and ultimately in utter solitude in the Australian bush.

Only after he has gone through the ordeal can he meet friends of "mates" in Greenfield, his place of origin. However, Voss and Matty are too complex to be neatly categorized. Actually, while Matty is Sophy's positive counterpart, Voss's too, he is also presented with the same kind of ordeal as Voss's. Therefore their respective travel into the desert are comparable and throw light on each other.

Voss starts off as the romantic hero forcing plans and patterns on life - his own as well as the others. Voss is overthrown from the divine throne he thinks he is entitled to. Matty, quite on the contrary, feels he is a mere creature born with its own load of Original Sin. Matty seeks Redemption from the very beginning of his conscious life, dating back from his schooldays, and in particular from his presumed role in Pedigree's tragic relationship with young Henderson. Thus a structural pattern informs both novels, beyond the complexities and intricacies of all the characters' predicaments. Voss and Matty must be seen as the action heroes of an initial situation of want; moreover they wish to use their discoveries not only to meet their original need but also to save their addressees. Only the objects, or addressees of the quests are allowed to profit by the spiritual journey, and are transformed. As soon as their want is met, both questers must die. They are helped or hindered by adjuvants or opponents. The quest may be successful, as in Matty's case, or successfully initiated, as in Voss's. Therefore, Matty is last seen in the glorifying proof of the fire and later on, as a saint bathing in golden light, a healed and whole being. Voss, however, remains a mystery after his head, the instrument that helped him mastering obstacles and presumed human weaknesses, is cut off from his body. One may assume that his last proof leaves him dead but alive to spiritual life and health. The varying viewpoints



on the explorer do not remove the mystery even if Laura's metaphysical claims for Voss impinge most strongly on the reader's mind. Matty can be seen as a saint - what Golding does suggest - or as a tragic clown, as most average characters think he is. But if Voss's parting words do not fail to sound endlessly in our soul, they come too late on the structural line of ascent of the novel.

How is Matty launched into this spiritual perspective? From the outset, Pedigree uses Matty to solve his own problem, namely to attract young pretty boys into his room. Disfigured Matty must be a proof of Pedigree's moral intention. Matty is candid, pure, literal-minded and therefore, fails to question the teacher's honesty. Thus, when Pedigree's "curse" reaches Matty, he does believe in it quite literally: "It is all your fault (3)." Indeed, when young handsome Henderson is rejected by Pedigree, the boy precipitates his death by falling from a high staircase. One of Matty's gymshoes is found under the body of the poor victim of Pedigree's whimsical affection. After Pedigree's dismissal, Matty is invested with a real mission: to save Pedigree by redeeming his own alleged "sin." Pedigree, in the meantime, is repelled by Matty's ugliness and makes him fully realize that he is not destined to human love. True human condition is revealed by the two-toneness of his face.

From the beginning of his quest, Matty asks himself three questions: "Who am I?", "What am I?" "What am I for?" Whereas Voss assumes that he can preside over his destiny, Matty submits himself to the realization of his fate: personal will, in his case, does not rise up to twist destiny. While Voss shapes his own soul by reacting to paired characters, Matty finds himself helped or hindered by paired symbolic objects: the suggestive and mysterious glass ball and the books loaded with knowledge, the multiple mirrors reflecting his ugliness and the barrenness of the Australian bush inviting the searching soul to face self-torture and revelation. Matty's self-torture starts with the resolution to remain silent, largely insulated from possible awakenings of his "human" sides, i.e. mainly his sore necessity to be loved as a man. The Australian experience marks a very important step in Matty's ascending journey. For in the midst of the desert, Matty's genitals are destroyed when he is beaten, hurt, actuary crucified by the fake Aborigine. The various opportunities of detachment from human necessities culminate with the final deprivation of manhood. Now Matty can proceed further up the way to saintlihood. The Australian desert is necessary as an objective correlative of the human soul in despair. The symbolism used by Golding in the occult scene of Baptism in the marshes of the Australian outback calls up the Christian view of Palfreyman's sacrifice in Voss. Matty is finally


3. GOLDING, William. Darkness Visible. London & Boston: Faber & Faber, 1979, p. 37. The book will be subsequently referred to as DV where passages are quoted.


spiritualized at the hands of the fake Aborigine, however grotesque the scene may appear; Palfreyman is killed by the Aborigines as he is also granted mercy and redemption when the spear finally finds his right side. Palfreyman is born in death, Matty is born to his true, positive destiny when he has forfeited human instincts, needs, or aspirations. He becomes open to the dialogue with his spiritually superior helpers, the Spirits, and gradually gives up any kind of material propensity, including eating and comfort. He is preparing for the final test, i.e. being a Holocaust, as it is revealed to him by the Spirits who appear now and then in moments of dream or hallucination. Laura also speaks to Voss in such moments, which requires from the reader, as stated earlier, a definite act of faith in the relevance of fictional truth, if not in any other level of understanding. As the spirits never fail Matty and ensure that he fulfils his destiny, Laura never fails Voss in the most painful experiences of physical or metaphysical suffering. But while Matty's higher fate demands detachment from human needs, Laura and Voss's requires full acceptance of what Voss calls human "weaknesses," including sexual love.

Matty's degree of unworldliness is played down by his literalness and the extremity of human behaviour that he adopts to please the Spirits or to meet his own initial want. White and Golding undercut their respective heroes by providing the possibility for diverging views on them.

Voss and Sophy have more in common than Voss and Matty, however. Both clever agents of evil, they set up plans, schemes, expeditions to test their own willpower. While Voss wants to trace the map of Australia, Sophy wishes every sign of civilization to be eradicated or plied to her own interest. Voss is a sadist when he enforces extreme physical pain on his mates, Sophy is a sadist when she imagines the killing of the young kidnapped boy. Sophy's path to damnation is initiated when she first realizes that, by throwing with enough accuracy and, above all, will, she can kill a dabchick swimming in a pond in her grandmother's garden. Thus knowing the ways that can be opened up by sheer will and planned action, she is led to ignore the metaphysical "call" she has been hearing since her childhood. Turning away from higher motives for life, she decides to use all her energy and willpower to the most destructive aims her personal whims can suggest. She dedicates her whole being to "entropy." Voss's journey, although sketched as a brave attempt to impose pattern on chaos, also stems from the evil will of a destructive pain-inflictor. Sophy needs people's help as little as Voss needs human company. The aloof Schopenhauer disciple has been inspired by White's view of Hitler. Pretty Sophy too, in the chiaroscuro of the night, looks like the megalomaniac leader. She uses people to serve her dark aims: she uses a passing car driver to lose her virginity, she uses Garrett as a surrogate companion and lover, as long as patience allows, she starts using Gerry's love to


invert her moral standards even more, she eventually uses Fido's attachment and social position to set up her kidnap scheme. But while Voss, in the end, calls for Christ's help and acknowledges his loving need of Laura, Sophy never flinches from her downright decision to take part in the universal process of "running down," as she puts it. The beautiful Sophy may, in the last analysis, be a more convincing sign of the times than Matty. As Sophy puts it when playing her Babel-like radio in the chaotic room she shares with Gerry:

Inside a radio and out there in infinite space that included the world there was audible mystery and confusion. She moved the control, destroying the voices, passing through music, a talk, a quiz, a burst of laugh, some foreign languages, loud, then faint. And she moved the control back and found the point between the stations; and immediately in the uncleared room which seemed always to smell of drains and food, and to be organized, or disorganized round an unmade bed. . . immediately there came the voice of the darkness between the stars, between the galaxies, the toneless voice of the great skein unravelling and lying slack; and she knew why the whole thing would be simple, a tiny part of the last slackness.
Running down.Dark. . . . .
It was a triumph of the will. (DV 172)

Sophy traces the way to Satan through outrageous crimes. The pinnacle of her terrifying self-determination is sketched in her day-dreaming hallucination in a barge, not far from the stables the girls used as their own house. Awaiting the success of her kidnap plan, she imagines how she will handle the prince:

She laid the point of the knife on his skin and Finding it to be the right place, pushed it a bit so that it pricked. The boy convulsed and flailed in the confinement and she was, or someone was, frightened a bit, far off and anxious. So she thrust more still and felt it touch the leaping thing or be touched by it again while the body exploded with convulsions and a high humming came out of the nose. She thrust with all the power there was, deliriously and the leaping thing inside seized the knife so that the haft beat in her hand, and there was a black sun. There was liquid everywhere and strong convulsions and she pulled the knife away to give them free play but they stopped. The boy just sat there is his bonds, the white patch of elastoplast divided down the middle by the dark liquid from his nose. (DV 252)


In Voss, the knife used by the Aborigines accomplishes a necessary killing to save Voss from damnation. The horror of the scene comes out masterfully. Both White and Golding succeed in creating images of utter horror. From Voss's personal calvary and death, White actually opens up a new path, even if it will not be taken in this world, for the sinner. Golding, however does not leave any room for a possible redemption of Sophy through outrage. Voss dies a redeemed man at the hands of his former disciple, Jackie:

[Jackie] could just see that the pale eyes of the white man were looking, whether at him or through him, he did not attempt to discover, but quickly stabbed with his knife and his breath between the windpipe and the muscular part of the throal His audience was hissing.
The boy was stabbing, and sawing, and cutting, and breaking with all of his increasing, but confused manhood, above all, breaking. He must break the terrible magic that bound him remorselessly, endlessly, to the white man.... As for the head-thing, it knocked against a few stones, and lay like any melon. How much was left of the man it no longer represented? His dreams fled into the air, his blood ran out upon the dry earth, which it drank up immediately, whether dreams breed, or the earth responds to a pint of blood, the instant of death does not tell. (DV 394)

When Voss is ready to ascend to the third stage of his spiritual life, "man returning into God", Sophy most definitely strengthens her commitment to inverted, satanic standards of humanness.

To P. White, time is cyclical which allows the quest to come full circle and thus show the changes that occurred during the long journey. Golding allows Matty's destiny to develop along a curve similar to that of White's cyclical time. Yet, while Matty's fate does, indeed, come full circle - born out of the apocalyptic London Blitz and dying as a burnt offering to save a young kidnapped prince - Sophy and Toni, her twin-sister, move along the lines of a circle only in so far as they contribute to shape Matty's providential end. On the contrary, Golding takes much care to show that the little girls wrongfully admired by the bookseller Sim Goodchild, are, from the outset of conscious life, open to the ways of Evil. Besides we have known, since Lord of the Flies, that Golding does not believe in the child's innocence. Thus time merely leads the characters to the achievement of their destiny. To Matty's initial and persevering sense of guilt, to his search for identity, we can compare Voss's early assumptions:



Every man has a genius though it is not always discoverable. Least of all when choked up by the trivialities of daily existence. But in this disturbing country. . . it is possible more easily to discard the inessential and to attempt the infinite. You will be burnt up most likely. . . but you will realize that genius of which you sometimes suspect you are possessed, and of which you will not tell me you are afraid. (Voss 35)

Voss ends his quest with the real moment of truth, however, the moment of true humility and real ascent to God. When we remember the importance White gives to human love and its physical expression, we can size up the difference between White's pantheist view of religion and Golding's mystical commitment to the hidden God living in every soul. White wishes involvement, total mingling with the universal living principle. Golding is highly suspicious of human ways to moral improvement and, therefore, believes in the necessity of keeping human needs altogether at bay. While Laura fulfils her role as disciple of moral betterment, Sim Goodchild and his friends will never attain to spiritual commitment, or even moral progress. They are the true tragic clowns in Darkness Visible.

To conclude, White is the prophet of involvement while Golding teaches detachment. White is concerned with the fate of man while Golding comes to grips with the making of holy men, the damnation of Satan's disciples, and the indictment of the average expressed by the multiple, never fulfilled beliefs of worldly people. Starting with the same necessity to know about man's spiritual predicament, White and Golding display closely related, but differing views as to the means of spiritual purification leading to humility. P. White's central subject is not "Hidden God", but the God of Incarnation, the Word made Flesh. Golding's prerequisite condition to saintliness is the wilful withdrawal from the life of the senses. The following passage by W. Blake sums up at best Voss's, then Matty's predicaments:

The Prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel dined with me, and I asked them how they dared so roundly to assert that God spoke to them. . . Isaiah answer'd: "I saw no God, nor heard any, in a finite organical perception, but my senses discovered the infinite in everything. . . I then asked Ezekiel why he eat and lay so long on his right and left side? He answer'd "The desire of raising other men into a perception of the infinite" (4).


4. BLAKE, William, as quoted by COLIN, Roderick. "Quatre plans de leçons sur Voss", Echos du Commonwealth, n°3, 1976, p. 15-27. p. 15.

 (réf.  Etudes Britanniques Contemporaines n° 4. Montpellier: Presses universitaires de Montpellier, 1994)