Not Yet a Child of the Finite and the Infinite: Kierkegaardian Existentialism in William Golding’s Free Fall
Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
In William Golding’s Free Fall, the novel ends without its protagonist, Sammy Mountjoy, receiving the atonement he seeks. As a consequence, the novel ends in an unresolved manner, leaving Sammy in a state of suspension. Despite having a metaphysical awakening in a Nazi POW camp, the consequences of his enlightenment do not reflect the way the Sammy retrospectively narrates the tale of his life. The existentialist theories of Danish thinker and writer Søren Kierkegaard offer a solution to the dilemma. Kierkegaard’s theories concerning the aesthetic, ethical and religious spheres of life, as well as his concept of ‘existential dread’, may be used to show that Sammy is able to make a ‘leap of faith’ from the aesthetic to the ethical sphere. However, because of his inability to make the last leap into the metaphysical sphere of life, he does not attain the insight he needs, namely that he is ‘a child of the finite and infinite’. The essay relates the ways Sammy Mountjoy fits into the Sartrean and Kierkegaardian expressions of existentialism, soon moving on to describe the details of Kierkegaard’s thought concerning the three spheres of life and the concept of ‘dread’. Sammy’s preoccupation with the present, his focus on the exterior rather than the interior and his inability to commit himself to people or situations fit neatly into the criterion for the aesthetic sphere of life. This, in turn, leads him to a state of dread, which reaches its climax in the dark cupboard. When released from his imprisonment Sammy has reached a state of awareness concerning the “vital morality” between people, previously a foreign concept. However, Kierkegaard points out that also the ethical sphere is flawed, leaving the religious/metaphysical sphere as Sammy’s ultimate destination. By failing to make the final ‘leap of faith’, due to a misguided conception of the boundaries between the ethical and the Absolute, Sammy falls short of the resolution he desires and the forgiveness he seeks from the three people that have influenced him the most. Thus an explanation is proposed to the unresolved manner in which Free Fall ends.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. , 23 p.
Kierkegaard, William Golding, Free Fall, existentialism, dread, aesthetic, ethical, religious, Sartre
General Literature Studies
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-8644OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-8644DiVA: diva2:175117
Helfer-Wajngot, Marion, Associate Professor