In William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, a group of young British school boys have found themselves stranded on a deserted island after their plane has been shot down. Scatted throughout the island confused and without any adult supervision, the boys are put in the ultimate predicament. The conch shell found by two boys soon turns into a symbol of order and civilization that will effect how the boys try to survive on the island. Throughout the book, Golding gives the reader many hints to how the conch is a symbol of civilization and order.
When the first two characters mentioned, Ralph and Piggy, find the conch, they wouldn’t realize what kind of impact it would have on their survival on the island. “Right away a symbolic characteristic is pointed out as Piggy warns Ralph as he goes to pick up the shell: “Careful! You’ll break it–” (Patterson, Ainsley). Just like the shell, civilization is very fragile and can fall or “break” instantly and without notice.
This warning towards Ralph can somewhat foreshadow what is to come later on in the book. With the first hint that the conch may be important in the story, another one follows.
When the first two characters examine the shell, Piggy is suddenly hit with quite the epiphany. Piggy exclaims to Ralph, “We can use this to call the others. Have a meeting. They’ll come when they hear us—” (Golding 20). Considering the idea, Ralph begins to blow into the shell in hopes of gathering any other survivors. Fortunately for the boys, their method worked as figures of life start to appear around them. Boys began to gather as a group around the conch almost as if it were a centerpiece. This can be described as a second example of how the conch is an symbol of civilization and order for the boys.
After bringing the boys together as a whole, the conch also serves a purpose when the boys meet. The boys find it hard to keep everyone quiet and things in order so they look to the conch for an answer. “The shell effectively governs the boys’ meetings, for the boy who holds the shell holds the right to speak” (SparkNotes Editors). The conch instantly turns into one of the most influential and important thing to the boys. It is used to bring the boys together and control their meetings, giving it the ultimate power. This is again is an example of how the shell symbolizes civilization and order.
In the beginning, the conch has the upper hand on whatever the boys do. “However, as the boys slowly turn to their savage instincts, the power of the conch shell is eroded. ” (Gedleh, Amal). This savage side of the boys is shown when they throw rocks at Ralph when he tries to blow into the conch and call them to order. The boys civilization heads for a downfall after this event. Groups begin to form as well as rivalries amongst the boys, splitting them apart from each other on the island. Just as Piggy described the conch earlier in the book as being fragile, so was the boys civilization as proven by what happened at this point in the story.
A final instance of how the conch represents a civilization can be seen near the end of the book. At this point, the conch has lost all hopes of having any type of order among the boys. They have all split apart and most of them only see the conch as an object rather than a power holder. When one group of boys, ran by Jack, have stolen Piggy’s glasses, Ralph’s group attempts to get them back by going to Jack’s camp. When they arrive a big confrontation occurs between the two groups. During this time a member of Jack’s group, Roger, pushes a rock off a ledge falling onto Piggy and the conch shell killing Piggy and crushing the conch.
This symbolizes the ultimate downfall a civilization can experience. Savagery has overcome most of the boys pulling them further and further away from any type of order. The last straw is drawn when this tragic event happens. All hope for any type of civilization or order amongst the boys has been destroyed. This again corresponds with how Piggy describes the conch at the beginning of the story as being fragile, just like the boys civilization on the island. From the beginning of the book, Golding has given many clues to how the conch will be an important symbol to the boys.
The conch once had the power to summon all the boys together and govern their meetings. It became a very powerful object to the boys, but not for long. With one instance of the conch having no power, it began to go downhill from there. No longer respected, the conch soon becomes nothing more than fragments after being crushed beneath a rock. All in all, Golding is expressing to the reader how delicate civilizations are. From being strong and stable to weak and devastated, change in civilizations can happen instantly and without any notice.
Cite this Symbolism in Lord of the Flies
Symbolism in Lord of the Flies. (2016, Oct 02). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/symbolism-in-lord-of-the-flies/