During World War II he served in the Royal Navy and was involved in the sinking of Germany's mightiest battleship, the Bismarck. He participated in the invasion of Normandy on D-Day and at war's end went back to teaching and writing.
Golding's often allegorical fiction makes broad use of allusions to classical literature, mythology, and Christian symbolism. Although no distinct thread unites his novels and his technique varies, Golding deals principally with evil and emerges with what has been characterized as a kind of dark optimism. Golding's first novel, Lord of the Flies (1954; film, 1963), introduced one of the recurrent themes of his fiction--the conflict between humanity's innate barbarism and the civilizing influence of reason. The Inheritors (1955) reaches into prehistory, advancing the thesis that humankind's evolutionary ancestors, "the fire-builders," triumphed over a gentler race as much by violence and deceit as by natural superiority. In Pincher Martin (1956) and Free Fall (1959), Golding explores fundamental problems of existence, such as survival and human freedom, using dreamlike narratives and flashbacks. The Spire (1964) is an allegory concerning the hero's obsessive determination to build a great cathedral spire regardless of the consequences. Golding's later novels have not won the praise his earlier works achieved. They include Darkness Visible (1979) and the historical trilogy Rites of Passage (1981), Close Quarters (1987), and Fire Down Below (1989).
He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1988.
His major published works are: