OF THE BABY NAME ERIC
Eric is one half of the twin set, “Samneric”, in Nobel Prize winner William Golding’s first novel, Lord of the Flies, published in 1954. They are identical twins, part of a group of British boys marooned on a desert island who are trying to survive and to self-govern. Eric and his brother are responsible for keeping the signal fire lit, and in so doing, they discover the body of a downed pilot, whom they mistakenly take to be “The Beast”, the mythical monster the boys have conjured up. Eric’s main virtue is loyalty to his twin – in the hierarchy of the island, Eric is too young to be a driving force; he and his brother are among the “littluns”. In fairness, Eric tries to stay on the path of righteousness, as represented by Ralph, but he is just too immature to withstand the torture inflicted upon him, although his lack of stamina does cause him pain and guilt. Eric bears too heavy a responsibility of symbolism to be allowed to be “just a boy”.
Eric Williams is the protagonist of Frederic W. Farrar’s 1858 boys’ novel, Eric, or, Little by Little. Novel is a generous word – it is a warning tale of the evils that may beset a good little Victorian boy despite his best intentions. Eric is a twelve year old at a boy’s boarding school who wants to be – heaven forbid! – accepted by his peers. Although he himself is pure of heart, he does not speak out against the evidence of wrongdoing in others, lamentably thereby sealing his fate. Oh, the horrors of the underbelly of public school! There is smoking, drinking, bad language, cheating – and throughout it all, Eric joins in, knowing the peril to his immortal soul! Actually, some of the goings-on sound quite amusing, and one suspects Mr. Farrar of relating them with some enjoyment, albeit coated with pious admonition. Don’t you worry – Eric gets his comeuppance. He runs away to sea and contracts a fatal illness; returning home to the welcoming hearth of his aunt’s home, Eric prepares to die – “oh, happy, happy at last – too happy!” So let that be a lesson to you. Or not.
Written by a morally upright, private-school headmaster turned author named Frederic Farrar in 1858, “Eric, or Little by Little” is a mid-Victorian schoolboy instructional pamphlet masquerading as a lengthy novel. Enormously popular in its day, the story follows young Eric Williams from his entrance into an all-boy’s boarding school in pastoral England to his premature death as a repentant young man. Sandwiched in between these two milestones are all the “adventures” leading Eric down the path of temptation and escalating bad behavior until his final salvation (punishment?) through death. Conservative Victorian parents loved the novel for its God-fearing earnestness, hoping their own little boys might learn a valuable lesson through Eric’s follies and fate. Repressed pubescent Victorian boys probably loved the novel for all of its titillating naughtiness (drinking, smoking, cheating, and general tomfoolery). Through his protagonist Eric, Farrar demonstrates how even good-natured, innocent boys can easily be enticed into bad decisions and poor behavior; but the final message was one of “universal reconciliation”. In other words, God’s love and mercy will spare even the greatest of sinners.