Sexuality is treated with greater religious gravity in William Golding's The Spire than in probably any other contemporary novel. The Spire is a symbolic novel told entirely from the point of view of Jocelin, the fourteenth-century dean of a thirteenth-century English cathedral, who is obsessed with the belief that it is his divine mission to add a four-hundred-foot spire to the Cathedral church of Our Lady. "God revealed it to me in a vision." He prevails over the combined opposition of clergy and builders who rightfully suspect that the cathedral rests on a mud foundation. Dean Jocelin displays a proprietary interest in the cathedral: it is his Bible in stone, and the spire is to be his prayer rising from it. But the spire has a will of its own: it is a compelling symbolic presence, having twin significance as a gigantic phallus in stone as well as a prayer in stone, "a diagram of the highest prayer of all.”1
The phallic symbolism is established in the microcosmic description of the cathedral model: "The model was like a man lying on his back. The nave was his legs placed together, the transepts on either side were his arms outspread. The choir was his body; and the Lady Chapel, where now the services would be held, was his head. And now also, springing, projecting, bursting, erupting from the heart of the building, there was its crown and majesty; the new spire."2 What is obvious from the beginning to the reader brought up in a Freudian ambience, the phallus of a supine man, is absent from the dean's conscious mind at the outset. Only as he gradually and painfully discovers his repressed sexuality does it dawn on him what his expressed godliness has concealed.
The novel opens with the earliest stage of construction and closes with the spire completed anti Jocelin dead. But the development of the novel should be traced through Jocelin's
growing awareness of his repressed manliness. In preconstruction days, years before the tale begins, we are told that, in what appeared to him to be an unselfish desire to secure the happiness of another, he arranged a marriage for Pangall, the crippled cathedral caretaker-whose impotence Jocelin refused to recognize at the time-with Goody, a sexually appealing girl. For a long time, the dean has no reason to suspect that a less altruistic motive subconsciously dictated his action. His relationship with Goody is an exemplary one between a medieval prelate and his humble parishioner. She is his "daughter in God,"3 and when they chance to meet, she smiles shyly, "pausing to cross herself at his blessing." Then suddenly one day, when her red hair springs "so unexpectedly from the decent covering of the wimple," all that innocent time before is "wounded." The wound never heals properly: "the secure time"4 is not restored; Jocelin becomes obsessed with "her hidden red hair."5 He feels "the prurience in him like a leprosy,"6 Even prayer is to no avail. For "when he glanced up to where help had been, a fall of red, knotted hair blazed there."7 Nonetheless, his self-control does not waver, and he keeps up appearances in his meetings with her until he tries to console her upon the death of Pangall, a death he has unwittingly caused. She shrinks from the proffered consolation, perhaps because she has begun to suspect, but he forces it upon her with this postscript: “And meanwhile-all these years-My child, you are very dear to me." Shocked, she retorts, "Not you too'" and flees, "gasping and shocking.”
Some people have experiences but miss meanings; others have meanings but miss experiences; a chosen few have both. Goody's arranged marriage to an impotent man covers the second. Jocelin's progress from ignorance to enlightenment about the sexual significance of the spire blankets the other two. Throughout most of the novel he epitomizes the first kind of person so that he reacts to Goody's recognition of his concealed lust, which he still refuses to comprehend, with nger and confusion: "What's all this?"8 But in a sudden flash of perception at the end, he sees the spire as a phallic club rising up toward "a tangle of hair, blazing among the stars." And so at last, becoming consciously aware of the erotic aspect of his vision, he murmurs to himself: "That's the explanation… "9 Only after Goody is dead and Jocelin himself is on his deathbed is he able to admit that his ambition to erect the spire was connected to his interest in her. The spire originally conceived as a glorifying adornment for a house of God is turned into the outlet for long-repressed sexual yearnings. The spire become phallus, this self-uplifting for self-gratification, has been a substitute satisfaction for a desire that this medieval man of God must deny. The Spire is basically the story of how an erotic fancy is inadequately sublimated into a work of religious art. A few minutes later, this phallus-spire is joined by a prayer-spire. His death-clouded eyes envision the spire as "rushing upward to some point at the skis end, and with a silent cry. It was slim as a girl, translucent. It had grown from some seed of rose-coloured substance that glittered like a waterfall, an upward waterfall. The substance was one thing, which broke all the way to infinity in cascades of exultation that nothing could trammel "10 Ultimately he recognizes the dual nature of the spire as of this world, the color of human flesh, at the same time that it is not of this world, the color of the mystic rose.
Jocelin's ascent to humility and self-knowledge, from pride and self-delusion, is characterized by pain and travail both for himself and for those involved with him. His own suffering is clinical and emotional-clinical in that he contracts tuberculosis of the spine. Added to this is the anguish caused by revelations of a dark past. Foremost among these was his supposedly fatherly feeling for Goody. After this is called into question, a whole slumbering host of doubts arise: doubts about his vocation, the holy relic from Rome that he enshrines in the tower, and the integrity of the original builders of the cathedral. The first two rude awakenings are the work of his aunt and patroness, the Lady Alison, of whom he disapproves. A mistress of the late king, she reveals to Jocelin that he owes his rapid advancement in the church, including his deanship, not to divine preferment and his own merits as he always supposed, but to her intercession. She and the previous king, in a digression from lovemaking, chose Jocelin on a whim, plucking him from a monastery where he was a novice and earmarking him for a quick rise. This erstwhile courtesan also disillusions him as to "the Nail," that he, assumed to be a relic of the true cross. In rapid sequence, he learns that the stone columns of the cathedral on which his tower depends are rubble-filled and that is why they sing in agony under the growing weight. With this discovery, an architectural stigma is visited upon him: Jocelin becomes the spire. He is "struck. . . from arse to the head with a white-hot flail. It filled his spine with sick fire and he shrieked because he could not bear it yet knew he would have to."11 At this point, the monomaniac and the object of his monomaniacal vision fuse: his spine becomes as maimed as the spire, which, owing to the corrupt columns, has slipped twenty-three inches out of true perpendicular.
His own suffering, grotesque as it is, is exceeded by the hardship this visionary teetering on the edge of madness inflicts upon others. In the burst of self-enlightenment that accompanies his last days upon earth, he regretfully admits that "I traded a stone hammer for four people."12 He alludes to two couples: Pangall and Goody and Roger and Rachel Mason. Jocelin blackmails Roger Mason, his aptly named master builder, into completing the precarious work, long after they discover that the foundation is inadequate to support the crushing weight of the mounting tower. Dispirited and sodden with drink, Roger, who opposes each stage of the construction, reluctantly goes on with the work and drifts into a liaison, I graph depicts Abraham's readiness, at God's command, to
born of desperation, with Goody. He eventually attempts suicide in an outhouse, which fails only because, ironically,he miscalculates the "breaking strain"13 on a rafter. Rachel, barren because of an unfortunate giggle that renders coital fulfillment impossible, is driven to Ophelia-like distraction, and Goody dies horribly in an agonizing child-birth. But the most horrifying fate is Pangall's. The construction workers, forced to go on with the work, panic, turn on Pangall with rage, mock his manhood, sadistically slay him, and hurl him into the foundations would cost no more than money.
In earlier novels, Golding was obsessed with the myth of the Fall, and, while there are vestiges of it here, central prohibitive, but even when it does, it does not deter him in
emphasis is placed on the nature of faith. I said earlier that the development of The Spire can be traced through Joce- lin's growing awareness of the sexual significance of the spire. In a larger context, the development of the novel has to be traced through Jocelin's growing awareness of what it means to have faith. Faith and the human cost are the overarching theme. In the beginning, what Jocelin deems faith is merely the good face that he places upon his pride, stubbornness, and complacency. On the long-awaited day when the construction commences, he prays---'if it can be called praying--"What can I do on this day of days, when at last they have to fashion my [italics added] vision in stone, but give thanks?” And he commissions a sculptor to carve four flattering likeness of his head in stone for mounting on the complete tower. As he sits for the sculptor and listens to him tapping away, the dean exults, “Thou dost glorify the lives of Thy chosen ones, like the sun in a window. The reference to the sun and the stained-glass window sets the tone of the opening chapters. Sunlight and stained glass windows, frequently alluded in the first chapter, are the deceiving outward appearance of what he calls “my vision”14 sunny and rainbow- hued. But these initial allusions are not without a hint of the anguish and torment to come. The Sunlight in the nave is trapped in choking dust stirred up by the work men. And the stained glass window of the opening paragraph depicts Abrham’s readiness, at God’s command,to offer Issac, his only son, in sacrifice. Thus if Jocelin is blissfully unawared of the cost of faith at this point, the reader is not.
The self-exultation phase is gradually replaced by one of doubt, the emerging realization that faith has been known to exact a toll. After repeated fallings out with his clerical colleagues all of whom oppose him- over the construction of the tower which comes to be known derisively as “Jocelin’s Folly”,the dean muses:” I didn’t know how much you would cost up there, the four hundred feet of you. I thought you would cost no more than money. But still, cost what you like.”15
When the cost first occur to him it does not seem prohibitive,but even when it does, it does not deter him in the least. He tells Roger: “I see now it’ll destroy us of course. What are we after all? Only I tell you this, Roger, with the whole strength of my soul. The thing can be built and will be built, in the very teeth of satan”16 Roger’s every effort to dissuade him is in vain. Jocelin persists in what he knows to be folly and makes light of the sacrifice: "I thought it would be simple. I thought the spire would complete a stone bible, be the apocalypse in stone. I never guessed in my folly that there would be a new lesson at every level, and a new power. Nor could I have been told. I had to build in faith, against advice. That's the only way. But when you build like this, men blunt like a poor, chisel or fly off like the head of an axe. I was too taken up with my Vision to consider this; and the vision was enough."17 The vision was enough to make the” building of the spire an overriding necessity."18
Doubt and disillusionment, a long phase, are succeeded by the realization that deranged perseverance is not faith. Jocelin comes to perceive a pattern amidst the confusion: he sees his so-called vision has been blasphemy”. The glorification of god, he learns, has another less appealing name- self-aggrandizement. The gap between vision and reality is to blame. He explains this to Father Adam: The Spire’s “an ungainly, crumbling thing. Nothing like.Nothing at all”.19 I this sense, The Spire is a novel about the abyss between the anticipation and the fulfillment of an ideal. Jocelin's ordeal is not in vain, however. The trial by fire crumbles his pride; on his deathbed he has a true vision: only hell awaits pride. "There is no innocent work. God knows where God may
be, "20 Jocelin gasps in his newly found and hard-won humility. He arrives at the understanding that the spire is built on blood and sin, precisely because it is the work of man. Perhaps there is an implicit moral here: Golding may be reminding us that all men are sinners and that the good and the beautiful are necessarily created by sinners.
With scant hours to live, Jocelin makes the painful discovery that all along his fanatical pride has masqueraded as faith. Undaunted, despite almost unbearable physical suffering, he
Seeks to find in the hour of death what has eluded him down all the years and suddenly-but not miraculously-he finds it. I say not miraculously, because the faith that he embraces is probably more secular than religious. Ironically, it is while he is being coaxed into a conventional gesture of assent by Father Adam, a priest about to confer the last rites, that he makes his own unconventional statement of faith. Instead
of "God! God! God!" Jocelin's last cry is "It's like the apple tree!"2l The apple tree, although it makes a belated and brief appearance in the novel, like the spire, is deep with levels of meaning, richly textured with ambiguities, and resonant with symbolic imagery. On one level, "it" refers to the spire: the spire is like the apple tree. Both are mixed gestures of assent, touching men and angels, earth and air, corruption and faith. On another level, life is the antecedent of "it"; life is like the apple tree of man's knowledge and "free fall." A lengthy citation is necessary at this point in order to delve into the manifold implications of this very involved analogy.
En route to a hoped-for but not-to-be reconciliation with
Roger Mason, Jocelin, walking only with the utmost effort, observes an apple tree replete with a vision of angels:
There was a cloud of angels flashing in the sunlight, they were pink and gold and white; and they were uttering this sweet scent for joy of the light and the air. They brought with them a scatter of clear leaves, and among the leaves a long, black springing thing. His head swam with the angels, and suddenly he understood there was more to the apple tree than one branch. It was there beyond the wall, bursting up with cloud and scatter, laying hold of the earth and the air, a fountain, a marvel, an apple tree; and this made him weep in a childish way so that he could not tell whether he was glad or sorry. Then, where the yard of the deanery came to the river and trees layover the sliding water, he saw all the blue of the sky condensed to a winged sapphire, that flashed once.
He cried out.
But the bird was gone. And an arrow shot once. It will
never come back, he thought, not if I sat here- all day. He began to play with the thought that the bird might return, to sit on a post only a few yards away in all its splendour, but his heart knew better.
"No kingfisher will-return for me."22
This Garden of Eden perception of beauty defies a definitive
gloss. But if the evocations do not work on a discursive level,
they do on an experiential one where angels; "pink and gold
and white," are forced to consort "among 'the leaves" with a
snake" "a long, black springing thing."
The kingfisher is counterpointed with a bluebird that Jocelin invokes in the course of his final testament.
What is terror and joy, how should they be mixed, why
are they the same, the flashing, the flying through the
panic-shot darkness like a bluebird over water? . . . In the
tide, flying like a bluebird, struggling, shouting, screaming to leave behind the words of magic and incomprehension
It's like the apple tree!23
Both birds make an ephemeral Right over water which they struggle to prolong. But the differences are more important.
The one fashes through a blue sky (hope is still uppermost);
the other wings "through the panic-shot darkness" Jocelin's death is imminent). The kingfisher leaves no legacy; the blue
bird whirls out a mystery, a dark revelation full "of magic and incomprehension." The Kingfisher resembles Hopkins' goldfinch-combining angelic gold with reptilic black-to a point: they attest to pied beauty, dappled faith, and the transience of any life-span. But unlike the goldfinch who helps Hopkins look homeward to heaven, the kingfisher performs no manifestly similar function for Jocelin, who complements his first choice with a bluebird.
The bluebird resembles Keats's nightingale: both birds provide fleeting night glimpses into an immortal truth about mortality. The poet and the dean, brooding over the difference between life as they know it and life as the birds know it, receive an unexpected revelation. Following Keats, Golding exploits the method of paradox. The linking of opposites is necessitated by the novelist's conception of beauty, beauty that makes demands on the entire emotional makeup and that allows sensitive minds to see Joy and terror, life and death, faith and unfaith, as parts of an integral whole. The difference is in the reaction: the poet doubts the value of the "vision"; the dean considers it far more than only "a waking dream." The one, concluding that the realm of the nightingale is an illusion, slips back, exhausted and disappointed, into the world of pain and sorrow. Whereas the other, concluding that the excitement and insight that he has acquired in the realm of the bluebird is a perfectly valid transcendent experience, returns to the world of reality content to die with dignity and courage.
The implication is that Jocelin, in experiencing the blue Bird flight, has been in contact with some higher revelation about life and death. I have so far resisted the temptation to translate this imaginative analogy into conceptual terms, but perhaps a suggestion, as distinct from a full-dress explanation, is in order. The phrase "through the panic-shot darkness" surely connotes something concerning Jocelin's state of mind with death immediately imminent but less surely something concerning his destination. Life is a Rash over water with panic at the end, "a whirl of terror and astonishment"24 at the approach of the unknown, and perhaps a hint of light to come. This latter conjecture is consistent with Golding's Keatsian affirmation of joy in the midst of terror and with the allusion to the apple tree-the angelic blossoms exuding a "sweet scent for joy of the light." Add to this all the blue of the sky concentrated in the one-way flight of the splendidly plumaged kingfisher and the picture is one of the moment of transition from life to death as Jocelin comes to feel it.
This is no Apostles' Creed, and for a medieval priest Jocelin's semi agnostic credo is an anachronism, of course. But 1 suspect that it is Golding's own "I believe. . ." At the approach of death, Jocelin fervently expresses his creator'_ humanistic faith; even though for most of his life he has mouthed the traditional form of assent in the Middle Ages, theocentric faith. Roger Mason, the aspect of unfaith, constitutes the third angle in this triangular statement of faith. Humanistic faith having been explored, there is a need to examine briefly the remaining two.
Theocentric faith manifests itself throughout The Spire in
terms of Biblical allusions. The novel opens with references to Abraham and Isaac as well as to Abel. The stained-glass window of Abraham and Isaac functions in a way similar to the pillar of Abel. The window looks beautiful and the pillar looks straight, but they tell a story of woe and crookedness.
"In a desecrating parallel, the murder of Pangall grimly paro- dies the Abraham and Isaac story. The pagan workmen defile
the cathedral by offering a human sacrifice to the devil. After
torturing Pangall obscenely, they ritually murder him and, bury him in the pit beneath the crossways where, crossed with the Druidic devil-worsl}iping sign of mistletoe, he crouches in a perpetual vigil-an inverted mirror image of the sacrament of Baptism. The torment that Jocelin himself suffers after being forcibly ejected from Roger's room, his ears ringing with curses, reenacts not only Pangall's death but also Christ's rejection. As he crawls in the gutter, the mob -never identified but all the more sinister for that, recruited perhaps from irate parishioners and the irascible army of workmen-hound him with "imprecation and hate," pelt him with fists and feet and strip the clothing from his back. In imitation of the archetypal scapegoat, his only response is to cry out: "My children! My children!" 25 After a lifetime of preaching theocentric faith, he defers his practice of it until now, for the essence of this kind of faith is courage, willingness to trust, and, above all, willingness to be a fool for God. As Jocelin explains to Roger: "Even in the old days He never asked men to do what was reasonable. Men can do that for themselves. They can buy and sell, heal and govern. But then out of some deep place comes the command to do what makes no sense at all-to. build a ship on dry land; to sit among the dunghills; to marry a whore; to set their son on the altar of sacrifice. Then, if men have faith, a new thing comes. "26
Referring to the building of the tower, Jocelin would always say: "I am about my Father's business." He liked to think of himself as God's instrument for joining "earth to heaven," for making "geometric lines. . . leap into a picture of infinity."27 Roger Mason, the master builder and his skeptical adversary, wary of miracles and short on divine trust, counters this upward vision by emphasizing the physical reality of the spire. As they stand on the parapet, he tells the dean: "Let your eye crawl down like an insect, foot by foot. You think these walls are strong because. they're stone; but I know better: We've nothing but a skin of glass and stone stretched between four stone rods, one at each corner. D'you understand that? The stone is no stronger than the glass between the verticals because every inch of the way I have to save weight, bartering strength for weight or weight for strength, guessing how much, how far, how little, how near, until my' very heart stops when I think of it. Look down, Father. Don't look at me-look down!"28 He knows what he knows: the church rests on rubble and mud; the pillars are bent, groaning under the weight of the swaying spire which, having impacted itself crookedly in the parapet, gives every indication of tearing and splitting with the next windstorm. But the voice of reason is so terrified by the voice of "faith" --an idealist-villain progenitor of obsessive uncompromising earnestness, with an unconquerable will, who spares no one and nothing in his demonic zeal to erect the tower-as to be overwhelmed by it. Impotent to act, Roger despises Jocelin, the so-called man of faith who causes more intense suffering by his "faith" than the most talented doubting Thomas could with twice his opportunities.
Jocelin is not dead in life: he retains the potential for change and redemption. He replaces lip-service theocentric faith with a felt humanistic equivalent. His God-oriented "faith," sustained by lofty rhetoric but wanting in charity-with one obvious exception: his too brief turn-the-other-cheek display when visited with mob violence-was a charade; his man-oriented faith, characterized by self-panic, shame, and deeds of atonement, is his salvation. He has his special vision of love only when his hypocritical trust in God wanes and his sincere trust in man waxes-the mob violence scene is the cross-bearing climax of this internal upheaval. The hypocrisy in the God-centered stage of Jocelin's "faith" shows that Golding was not trying to be ironical when he wrote The Spire. Given this theme, the striving for irony would have been an irresistible temptation for Shaw, for example, but not for Golding: he is not putting down divine love and elevating human love as the route to salvation. He is demonstrating an irrefutable fact: bogus love of God is no match for authentic love of man. And remember that the mob violence scene with its implication of genuine love for God is the bridge between the two. The incoherent tremor of Jocelin's lips-"It's like the apple tree!"-whicr Father Adam misconstrues as "God! God! God!" is not such a mistaken interpretation after all. It is in accord with Jocelin's hard-earned realization that the supernatural must be approached by way of the natural, that God manifests himself solely through sensory-perceived creation. Hopkins' well known sentiment, "The world is charged with the grandeur of God," is relevant here, except that Golding renders it less exultantly, more prosaically, For he has Jocelin reflect: "And what is heaven to me unless I go holding him by one hand and her by the other?" On the same occasion, "a grey, successive day for dying on,"29 there is an. even more pertinent reflection: "If I could go back, I would take God as lying between people and to be found there."30 And so the theoretical distinction between theocentric faith and humanistic faith becomes at last almost a semantic one in this novel.
The Spire, with stress on the cost of faith, recalls Ibsen's play The Master Builder (1892), which stresses the cost of success. A middle-aged man's introspection about the nature of success in terms of other people's suffering is transformed into another middle-aged man's introspection about the nature of faith on the same terms. Both works are marinated with images and observations dealing with death and vanity. The Master Builder, rich, complex, and nearly inexhaustible, is Golding's great example, Jocelin's resemblance to Halvard Solness, the Master Builder, a specialist in erecting churches, is considerable. These demon-driven, self-deceived spire builders are sinners with a saintliness latent in their eleventh hour thrust for martyrdom. To attain their ends, they manipulate people ruthlessly, and so they are freighted down with uneasy consciences. Both experience guilt which culminates in self-flagellating mortification; both are paranoidal 'and Promethean; both are destroyed by young women with irresistible sexual charm; and both undergo ambiguous deaths.
Jocelin shares a tyrannical nature with Solness. They treat
other people as dehumanized objects, existing exclusively for
their own use. Solness bullies his wife and keeps his em
ployees down. A younger associate, a draftsman of consider
able promise, for instance, is calculatingly discouraged and
deliberately crushed. Solness clings to young people only to
destroy them. Jocelin, as we have seen, bullies everyone who
is even remotely connected with the construction of the spire, notably his architect (also referred to as the master
builder, although Jocelin himself is the true master builder, at
for it is he who conceives the vision and drives the project on) whom he does not hesitate to blackmail when every other ploy designed to keep him on the job fails. Jocelin shares consciously idealistic aims with Solness, who began by building churches dedicated to the honor and glory of God. Both desire something intensely and are extremely rigid in the pursuit of that desire. Both are confused as to what they desire. They imagine their goal is to add to the extrinsic glory of God; in fact it is to aggrandize themselves boundlessly. They are thus more willful than truly idealistic.
In pursuing ideals to the point of destruction-in Shaw's words, Ibsen's major theme was "ideals. . . demand human sacrinces"31-these twin tower builders exhibit symptoms paranoidal and Promethean. Solness is neurotically fearful of the menace posed by the younger generation of architects and ridden with the anxiety that they are conspiring to oust him from his ascendant position. He is quite ecstatic when he is told he alone should be allowed to build, that all competition should be suppressed. The Master Builder's original intention was to construct churches and nothing else, but when God permitted his wife's home to be burnt and their children to be taken from them, all that changes. He pledges himself to divine defiance: never again to build a church; to concentrate on "homes for human beings"; in general to rival the Mighty One. . . [as] a free builder."32 The dean, too, likes to envision himself in conflict with a more than mortal foe. In the midst of all the difficulties, human and mechanical, attendant upon the erection of the spire, Jocelin vows that he shall prevail despite Satanic competition. "It's become a race between me and the devil. We're going faster, both of us, racing for the line. But I shall win."33 And his implacable resolve to persevere in the work, against every man-made, natural, and demonic obstacle to the contrary, eventually shades into defiance of the Creator as implied by the last sentence of chapter eight: ". . . at the crossways, the replaced paving stones were hot to his [Jocelin's] feet with all the nre,s of hell. "34
The play as well as the novel contains a protagonist who, one time, exchanges faith for disloyalty to God. In both instances, the irreverent lapse is attended by a young woman, whose very presence has a profoundly disturbing effect upon the hero, and a dollop of grievance. The Master Builder desires punishment to purge himself of the guilt he bears toward his long-suffering wife: a nagging sense of guilt born of the past personal tragedies he feels responsible for the loss of their twin sons and their house in the fire. The opportunity for salutary self-torture presents itself in the form of youthful Hilda, a member of the generation he fears. Hilda reenters Solness' frustrated life after a long absence. Ten summers earlier, they had first met when he was building a tower on an old church in the mountain village where she lived. Despite the fact that she was only twelve or thirteen at the time, he apparently tried to seduce her, and he promised to return for her in a decade. When he fails to show, she, suitably dressed as a mountaineer, comes down for him. Her expressed motive is to. be of use to him. This ethereal-appearing creature explains that she has selected him for a higher purpose. She had remembered him as a superior person, a kind of throwback to the noble Viking of old, but one who had not quite achieved his full potential. She seeks the Master Builder out to goad him into attempting "the impossible." But her repressed motive is revenge, as the bird of prey metaphors, so frequently associated with her, suggest. In other words, her unconscious attitude toward Solness is at variance with her conscious attitude, and this situation is reflected in Jocelin's ambivalence toward Goody -although the attitudes he is torn between are not an other-directed death wish and hero worship but rape and goodwill. In both pairings, the altruistic impulse conceals a hostile one, with the difference, of course, that Hilda is the victimizer while Goody-a far more passive creature, in keeping with what medieval custom decreed proper for a woman-is the victim. The sequence of deed and guilt is another difference. Solness is guilt-ridden before Hilda's unexpected reappearance and is unconsciously awaiting his own destruction. Jocelin's guilt load descends after the fact of the arranged marriage between Pangall and Goody. It coincides with the dean's belated discovery that his interest in the girl was carnal to begin with.
Hilda's unexpected visit and her whimsical-appearing but actually baleful insistence that Solness keep his "promise" and present her with "a castle in the air"35 precipitates the Master Builder's death. She is disappointed when she learns that he no longer builds churches and church towers. But she recovers her gaiety. when she is told he has just completed a new house with a tower for himself. At the dedication ceremony, she prevails upon him personally to climb with a wreath to the top of the tower, even though she is aware of his morbid fear of heights and susceptibility to vertigo symptoms shared by Jocelin and Roger, incidentally. After hanging the wreath around the weather vane and waving to the throng below, he loses his footing and is dashed to the ground to the consternation of all the onlookers except Hilda, who, greedily content with her triumph, is euphoric. His spire-topping, spire-toppling death is the condition for her fulfillment. This sexually fearful man who habitually used other people to achieve his arrogant purposes is now used by a sexually arrested girl to achieve orgasm. The circle is closed. Solness' unalterable will to reach the to?(literally and figuratively, destroys him. To the extent that he remains pathologically ambitious to the end, his death is negative: the events leading to his disaster do not change him; it is even doubtful that he learns anything _bout himself from them. Jocelin's willingness to pay any price to attain his goal also destroys him. But his death,.rowing to his change of heart before "life's fitful fever is over," is more affirmative. )In the Oedipal tradition, Jocelin acquires insight and strength through suffering; in_the Medean tradition, Solness suffers in vain.
As formidable as the human protagonists in these two works are the tower and the spire. They signify physical death in the mad pursuit of ideals and gigantic wish-fulfillment phalli; they also symbolize their creators' neurotic need to isolate themselves from others in order to rise above humankind and, where God is concerned, polarized postures of worship and defiance. The traditional references of the tower and the spire to ideals, sex, religion, solitude, and pride encourage these dazzling ambiguous ramifications. These brilliant conical images exact a cost, however: the characters remain convincing but scarcely realistic. Hilda and Goody appear partly to be projections of the egos of Solness and Jocelin, their ambitions and anxieties. The women plus the tower and the spire represent not simply the exhibitionistic tendencies of these men but the creative urge and the guilt these men have in common with other modern heroes despite the medieval mise-en-scene, the character ofJocelin is modern in conception and execution. The dizziness Solness and Jocelin experience in ascent is that of achievement and conscience. To become "free builders," to reach the summit of success and faith, they must pay the price in sacrifice, offering up themselves, family, friends, and coworkers. But in their microcosmic reflection of the universal dilemma the artist confronts today, there is this difference: ultimately, Solness has to renounce the higher reaches of his art for the sake of popularity whereas Jocelin never falters, never compromises. The exiled, guilty, and all but frustrated artist in our time and the nature of his art have seldom been more impressively devised in character and image than in Golding's The Spire. . . .
The Spire mediates most impressively between the temporal and the spiritual. So too does much of the fiction of John Updike. It is fitting that he should be our next stop.
1. William Golding, The Spire (Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc.,
1964), p. 115.
2. Ibid., p. 4:
3: Ibid., p. 7.
4. Ibid., p. 86.
5. Ibid., p. 107.
6. Ibid., p. 123.
7. Ibid., p. 122.
8. Ibid., p. 95.
9. Ibid., p. 213.
10. Ibid., p. 215.
11. Ibid., p. 181.
12. Ibid., p. 214.
13. Ibid., p. 212.
14. Ibid., p. 17.
15. Ibid., p. 31.
16. Ibid., p. 83.
17. Ibid., p. 103.
18. Ibid., p. 162.
19. Ibid., p. 186.
20. Ibid., p. 214.
21. Ibid., p. 215.
22. Ibid., pp. 196-197.
23. Ibid., p. 215.
25. Ibid,. p, 207.
26. Ibid., p, 116.
27. Ibid., p. 64.
28. Ibid., p. 112,
29. Ibid" p. 214.
30. Ibid., p. 212.
31. Bernard Shaw, Major Critical Essays: The Quintessence of
Ibsenism (London: Constable, 1932), p. 123.
32. Henrik Ibsen, The Master But/der, in Plays by Henrik Ibsen
(Modern Library, Inc., 1950), p. 377.
33. Colding, op cit., p. 154.
34. Ibid., p. 151.
35. Ibsen, op cit., p. 378,