Golding is an incredible wordsmith. With stark realism and deep insight, he probes one man's outer and inner struggles for survival after washing up on a rock in the mid-Atlantic. I found the psychological portrail wholly believable, but I had a difficult time sympathizing with this character. He's a womanizer, a self-centered egotist. With near-animal drive, he carves out meager existence on the rock. I found very little emotional connection with Martin, and read on primarily because of Golding's narrative power.
Essentially, Golding seems to say that, brought to our lowest common denominator in a fight for life, we are all self-centered, that greed takes over. I found the argument weak because we discover that Martin was this way already. I would've liked to see a selfless person's fight for existence and the consequences of his actions.
Or maybe that's Golding's point: Martin's self-centeredness eventually corrodes his ability to survive because the motivations run shallow. Numerous true-life accounts show the struggle of men and women to rise above their base needs and extend life heroically to others. Selflessness often leads to the survival of the group, it seems, but in this book we have only one character's survival to consider.
A second reading might reveal to me more of Golding's intentions in this story, but the fact remains: Golding knows how to build word upon word until you are trapped within the dwelling of his character's minds. That alone lifts this book above the volumes of so-called literature stacked on most shelves.
Based on Golding's own standards from his other books, I cannot highly recommend this as a great story, but only as a great example of powerful wordage and characterization. I think Golding sells us short here on the premise of survival. I finished the last page with little emotional or intellectual reaction. I felt, like Martin, only blank disillusionment.