The Symbolism of the Conch
For centuries philosophers have debated the question of whether man is innately evil.
Golding poses this question in Lord of the Flies. Set on a tropical island during World War II, the novel begins when schoolboys from Great Britain are being flown to safety and their plane is shot down. No adults survive, and the boys are left to govern themselves and get rescued. William Golding uses symbolism in the form of the conch to represents the concept of society. The boys' evolving relationship with the conch illustrates Golding's theme that humans, when removed from the pressures of civilized authority, will become evil.
In the beginning, the boys view the conch as an important symbol that unites them and gives them the power to deal with their difficult situation. When the conch is first found and blown, it brings everyone together: "Ralph found his breath and blew a series of short blasts.
Piggy exclaimed, 'There's one!'" Here Piggy observes one boy emerging from the jungle but soon boys conform all around. Each comes for his own reason: some for plain curiosity, other for the prospect of rescue. They all form the first assembly thanks to the conch. The first job of this assembly is to unite even further and choose a leader or chief. Once again the conch plays an important part. It is Ralph who is chosen to be chief, and the main reason for this is because he holds the conch. When it is put to a vote, the boys exclaim, "Him with the shell. Ralph! Ralph! Let him be chief with the trumpet-thing." Because Ralph possesses the conch, a symbol of power and authority, he is chosen chief. Thus, at first the conch is an important object bringing civilizing influences...