The Main Themes of the Spire
The bent and twisted hunchback Jocelin is the cornerstone for interpreting and bringing forth the multitude of interesting themes within the novel. Through Golding’s experience of World War II, he established many scathing criticisms of humanity in his literature. In The Spire this is represented by the character of Jocelin, a Dean of a nameless cathedral obsessed with the vision of erecting a four-hundred foot spire.
Jocelin is the penultimate antihero, the introduction of the story tells us how “He was laughing chin up, and shaking his head. God the father was exploding in his face. ” It defies the expectations of what context a Dean would place God into, especially in humour, so very early on into this novel are these very slight and gentle implications of corruption, this is also exacerbated when the slight phallic pun of “Eighteen inches” is joked by Golding, and we get a sense of… “expecting the reverse” in the chapters to come.
Jocelin later lustfully examines Goody Pangall, what is interesting to note is to note is how Jocelin refers to her while looking at her, he mentions her only as “Pangall’s wife” which is incredibly reminiscent of Steinbeck’s Of Mice And Men where the female of the story is only referred to as “Curley’s wife” and her actual name is not specified, names are quite symbolic in terms of how much value the other characters revere her, and over here in The Spire, Jocelin only seems to associate her as a nameless object, devoid of human definition.
When you take away the name of the character, you disassociate that character from the main frame of other characters who actually do have names, and Jocelin plays up further on this, “She is entirely woman, he thought, loving her;” shows also his frame of mind early on, his definition of the characters is placed onto a spectrum, with women this is shown as either “Girl” or “Entirely woman”, this then can be taken further to show how Jocelin categorises people around him according to how much pleasure and pain they cause him.
The presentation of Jocelin up to this point is a sexually repressed Dean, and we have the theme of obsession rising for the first time, however expressed in a Freudian shell that Jocelin’s initial sexual innuendos of The Spire is in reality, behaviour stemming from his sexual repression of Goody Pangall.
This is just one of many forms of Jocelin’s twisted obsession, and that his obsessive thoughts is expressed in many facets of his metaphoric ideology and associations of events and people in the cathedral Golding portrays this shapeshifting obsessive compulsive behaviour in the actual narrative of the story as well, there is a constant shift of narrative within the novel, between Third person and First person, “Then he dared to think again, in the warmth at his back…..
It is my guardian angel,” the narrative is unstable, much rather like the mindset of Jocelin himself, and also implies that Jocelin may interpret and view himself in Third person while in his mind, since the form of the narrative is shapeshifting from several perspectives to another, and also occasional parenthesis “and two men posed so centrally in the sundust with their crows (and what a quarry noise and echo as they lever up the slab and let it back),” to indicate more First person narrative but in a more personal and reflective manner, and its through this First person narrative that we can note the use of archaic language, ” I do Thy work; and Thou hast sent Thy messenger to comfort me,” this shows us the biblical self highlighting of Jocelin to make himself seem more important than he really is.
Almost, justifying his work of the spire by expelling all qualms. Another frequent theme that Golding has presented in The Spire is immaturity and the role of childhood in the motivations of character. “to think how the mind touches all things with law, yet decieves itself as easily as a child,” Childhood here represents stupidity, and its from the immaturity of our actions that cause us to do stupid things, Jocelin touches upon this when examining Goody Pangall, “She is entirely woman, he thought, loving her; and this is foolish, this childish curiosity shows it. ” surprisingly this is the rare times where we see Jocelin refuting himself rather than justifying himself.
Its also worth noting that this is not the first time that Golding has used children to carry his critique of humanity, in Lord of the Flies we are shown the adult behaviour’s and faults reflected in children, Golding uses this as a metonym to describe that the entire faults of human behaviour are the attempts to recreate childhood and to be free from responsibility, that we give birth to the belief that anything is possible and everything is allowed. When the ground underneath the “Pit” starts moving, and later on in the book when the stone of the tower starts “singing”, Jocelin has brought the cathedral to such a position by allowing and justifying every absurd suggestion.
Its this very childish frame of thought which sets his imagination loose and Jocelin believes he is comforted by “an angel sent from God” yet ironically this is only the burning sensation of his spine by tuberculosis, this is an important metaphor, since it conveys the theme of the corrupting tendency of arrogance, that Jocelin’s own arrogance is the cause for his own physical deformation is a very powerful axiom that Golding relays, since Golding’s seeming objectives behind his work are to tell the story of humanities own arrogance by glorifying the evil of his characters in his literature, incredibly similar to John Milton’s Poem Paradise Lost where the evil of Satan is intensified by his devious and intelligent planning, is similarly reflected in Jocelin, where his evil is intensified by his metaphoric interpretations of events and arrogance, ironically arrogance was the sin of Satan himself, even more so that Jocelin is supposedly a religious Dean of a cathedral. The main characteristics of Jocelin so far are, a hungry curiosity for women and sex, Self glorification, Childish immaturity, farfetched imagination which creates a metaphorical perception, and arrogance. These are essentially ramifications of one main theme so far, the notion of Escapism.
Through these acts and mindframes Jocelin creates an alternate world to ignore the current reality, the idea of escaping or rather creating, in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Victor creates the creature as a trophy almost to credit his own scientific intellectualism, and Jocelin’s view of his seperate reality is still incomplete, and he feels he needs to create The Spire to serve as a metaphor for his seeming “closeness” to God, “I am about my father’s business,” it almost seems that some part of Jocelin’s twisted psyche is not fully dedicated to his dream, and this is perhaps the flaw in Escapism that Golding tries to present, more implied that if Jocelin represents the extreme borderline of human naivety, how can the rest of humanity practice Escapism when it clearly does not work for the rather vacuous Jocelin?
In Jocelin’s insensitivity to the truth, we find his sensitivity for lies. In the bigger picture we find Jocelin’s hunger for power “I never guessed in my folly that there would be a new lesson and every level, and a new power” and that building a path or a tower to God, will imbue you with the power of God, and with his treatment of other characters, for instance Roger Mason, he tries to invite Roger Mason further into the messianic visions of the spire, “God revealed it to me, his unprofitable servant. ” claiming these own visions as his own, and more relatively, attempting the to grasp the power of God in his own spindly hands. That is not the holiest prophecy; that is the most devious heresy.
Its through Jocelin’s arrogance does the issue or theme of pride arise, Its when we place ourselves above other people and see ourselves as higher, that we try to recreate our image into some sort of powerful deity or demigod which cannot be dominated, which Golding has shown to have a very ironic sense of humour by using Jocelin to represent religion; the very thing expected to fight pride, becomes the very thing to personify it. Perhaps its inevitable to become the thing you pretend to be. The ultimate Theme of this book is humanity, Golding’s written account of the faults in humanity is found clearly in The Spire through Jocelin, its only through relating to Jocelin, and placing ourselves within his persona, can we really understand him deeply The biggest point however, is that when you explain behaviour and people by relating it to yourself, you can no longer hate them or fear them, you will always respect them neutrally, because you can always find the same desires in your own heart.