On the original manuscript of The Inheritors, Golding wrote that the ‘centre symbol is the waterfall, the time stream, the fall, the second law of thermodynamics’. And indeed, the waterfall is an important place in the novel – it represents, at least initially, the onset of summer, comfort, and a source of life.
‘Beyond this slope was the gap through the mountains, and from the lip of this gap the river fell in a great waterfall twice the height of the tallest tree. Now they were silent the people attended to the distant drone of the water. They looked at each other and began to laugh and chatter’.
The Neanderthal group do not know how to cross the waterfall to get to the island, and the waterfall acts as an impassable barrier. However, once the New People take Liku and the ‘New One’, Fa visualises them using a log to battle the current. John Carey writes that the humans’ ‘ability to haul their canoes up past the waterfall’ demonstrates their evolutionary advantage over the Neanderthals. The waterfall, then, symbolises the divide between the two groups – the powerful, inevitability of the water mirrored in the superiority and strength of the Homo Sapiens.