The New Inheritors

One of the great things about the creatures who mostly occupy the foreground in William Golding’s brilliant The Inheritors, first published by Faber in 1955 at the bargain price of £0.55, is that they have absolutely no inkling that they are yesterday’s children. We are the same.

Our soteriological mantra is that, if our intrinsic superiority does not guarantee our survival, there is “someone who or something which” will save us. Golding’s neanderthals failed to conceive that there was anything or anyone from which or whom they might need saving. And we are just the same.

She was watching. Carefully. His every movement she digested; his every word she analysed. Not as prey would observe and analyse the predator; as successor would observe the benefactor.

Nobody understood, or even suspected: the grass was green; the flowers grew, blossomed and perfumed. These were the assurances they sought, and these the assurances they were given. And of course nobody predicted or controlled it; it was not as if there were some overarching plan. The very disparity of it disguised it; the very fact that it could not be hidden meant that it could not be seen. And everyone looked; everyone saw; everyone trusted; everyone dreamed. Nobody planned the annihilation because nobody wanted or needed it; it was just an inescapable consequence of inferiority.

And yes, of course you are waiting for a “But …” that will put everything right. But there is no “But”; everything will slowly and inevitably come to an end. They will no more eliminate us deliberately than we have eliminated the apes or the fish or the insects. But the end will be the same: we will come to an end.

The New Inheritors are at hand. And the world will be all the better for it. Perhaps. But that will not be for us to see.


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