Symbolism in a Novel Lord of the Flies Literary Analysis

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Symbolism is a critical factor in numerous books, such as The Lord of the Flies by William Golding. The novel heavily relies on symbolism to progress the story. Although they may appear insignificant at first, upon closer analysis, these symbols are crucial in depicting the microcosm of the island. One example is the conch shell, which initially serves as a symbol and retains its importance until the end. Ralph and Piggy stumble upon the conch and use it to assemble the boys after their plane crash. “We can utilize this to summon others,” they proclaim.

According to Golding (16), the sound of the conch served as a call for a meeting, with the expectation that others would gather to listen. Throughout the story, the conch symbolizes civilization and order on the island. At the beginning, it is entrusted to a boy who has the power to speak for the group: “I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak. He can hold it when he’s speaking” (Golding 33). As both a symbol and a tangible representation of political legitimacy and democratic power, the conch gradually loses its authority and control as the boys descend into savagery. Consequently, their once orderly lives quickly deteriorate into chaos.

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The conch’s power reaches its climax when Roger destroys it by pushing a boulder down castle rock, which collides into Piggy while he is holding the conch. Piggy is killed while the conch is shattered into fragments. This gruesome incident represents the end of the civilized instincts in almost all of the boys on the island. Among the boys, Piggy is the most intelligent and rational individual, and his glasses symbolize the power of science and intellectual pursuits in society. The glasses are used to start a signal fire on top of the mountain using the sun’s rays. Jack suddenly points and suggests, “His Specs—use them as burning glasses!” (Golding 40). Jack utilizes Piggy’s glasses to ignite the fire, demonstrating his intelligence and mastery of scientific principles to produce fire. Without the glasses, there would be no signal fire to light. Along with the glasses, the signal fire itself is also a symbol. The fire serves as an indicator of the boys’ connection to civilization. When the fire is maintained, it shows that the boys desire to be rescued. However, when the fire burns low or goes out, it symbolizes how the boys have lost their longing for salvation and have embraced savagery in their lives.

The signal fire serves as a symbol of the remaining hope and civilized instinct on the island. The protagonist emphasizes the need for smoke in order to be rescued. However, there is silence and hesitation among the group. Piggy kindly reminds them that smoke is necessary for rescue. Ralph angrily responds, claiming he knew it all along but momentarily forgot. He tries to distance himself from Piggy’s reminder, refusing to admit his mistake. This passage illustrates the loss of hope and diminishing civilized instinct in Ralph’s character.

The primal instinct of savagery that exists within all human beings is represented by the beast that frightens the boys. The boy’s behavior in the novel is what brings the beast into existence. “‘We’ve got to have rules and obey them. After all, we’re not savages. We’re English, and the English are best at everything'” (Golding 42). Initially, they do not believe in the beast and try to maintain civilized behavior. However, as they engage in more destructive actions, their inherent savagery surfaces and the belief in the beast intensifies. [The hunters’ thoughts were] crowded with memories… of the knowledge… that they had outwitted a living thing, imposed their will upon it, taken away its life like a long satisfying drink” (Golding 70). At the beginning of the novel, they are well-behaved and civilized boys, but as the story progresses, except for a few exceptions, they become ruthless and bloodthirsty. Their transformation into savagery occurs because the beast resides within them; it is not an actual physical creature. “Maybe there is a beast…. maybe it’s only in us” (Golding 89).

Fear in the boys brings out their savagery on the island, with no fear there would be no savagery. The lord of the flies symbolizes evil residing in every human heart. When Simon confronts the sow head, it reveals that evil will torment him and foreshadows his death. The lord of the flies represents both the physical beast and the power of evil. It is also a Satan-like figure that awakens the inner beast within each person.

Lord of the flies represents the devil, whereas Simon represents Jesus Christ. Golding suggests that evil will consistently prevail over good, as indicated by the lord of the flies foretelling Simon’s demise. The biblical name Beelzebub is equivalent to the lord of the flies, which denotes a formidable demon in hell, occasionally believed to be the Devil. The Devil is universally recognized as the embodiment of evil, therefore in the book, the lord of the flies symbolizes the power of evil. The various protagonists in the novel symbolize distinct aspects of society.

Ralph signifies organization, guidance, and civilization; Piggy signifies the scientific and intellectual components of civilization. Simon embodies innate goodness within society, while Jack embodies savagery and the craving for power within society. Roger represents extreme brutality and bloodlust. The island serves as a representation of a political state. The littluns embody the common people, whereas the older boys symbolize the ruling class and political leaders. Simon, Ralph, and Piggy, the older boys who have embraced civilization, utilize their authority to safeguard the littluns and fulfill their necessities.

Instead of prioritizing the older boys’ interests, they prioritize the welfare of the entire group. In contrast, Roger and Jack, the older savage boys, exploit their power to manipulate the littluns for their own selfish desires, neglecting the well-being of the group. The Lord of the Flies employs various symbols that play a crucial role in advancing the narrative. Without these symbols, the gradual shift from morality to chaos would not be effectively depicted. Golding skillfully utilizes symbolism throughout the book to illustrate the transformation of society into an unethical microcosm.

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Symbolism in a Novel Lord of the Flies Literary Analysis. (2017, Feb 17). Retrieved from

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