Music is a major theme in some of Golding’s novels, particularly The Pyramid, but it also plays a minor, but important role in others, including Pincher Martin and  Lord of the Flies.

The Pyramid

Oliver is a pianist, and early on in the novel he plays the piano to ‘express all the width and power of [his] own love, [his] hopeless infatuation’ with Imogen. During his memories of his childhood, he discusses his eccentric music teacher, Bounce, who is eventually sent away due to illness. At her death, her gravestone reads ‘Heaven is music’.

Oliver derives much happiness from his father’s wireless (as radio was known then), and later his gramophone, and is thrilled by all the new music it provides. He is exasperated by the violin and loves piano, and harbours a secret desire to be a professional musician. Music and social class become intertwined in the novel. Oliver’s father refuses to let him continue with his music lessons so he can concentrate on his studies to get into Oxford. Oliver is ashamed of his ambition to be a musician.

Pincher Martin

While not exactly a symbol, music provides the backdrop to one of Golding’s most surreal scenes. Suffering from constipation, Christopher Martin decides to give himself an improvised enema, using sea water and the tube from his lifebelt. As he prepares this makeshift operation, the ‘music rose’, and his explosive bowel movement is described as a ‘cadenza’ – defined as ‘an elaborate flourish or showy solo passage, sometimes improvised’. In the scene, he ejects his excrement with ‘massive chords and sparkling arpeggios’, until the ‘orchestra’ is silent. 

Lord of the Flies

Musical prowess is a symbol of power in Lord of the Flies. When Jack‘s group, the choir, is first spotted on the island, it is described by Golding in animalistic terms: ‘something dark was fumbling along… the creature stepped from mirage on to clear sand.’ Jack is the chapter chorister and this makes him the leader of the choir, and a rather autocratic one at that. He firmly believes that he should be the chief on the island because he can ‘sing C sharp’, thus equating his musical skills with his ability to lead.