Symbolism in "Lord of the Flies"

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Symbolism in Lord of the Flies


In Lord of the Flies by William Golding a group of young British boys are stranded on an uninhabited island after their plane crashes. At first a paradise, the island eventually becomes a seemingly inescapable hell for some of the newcomers. There are various symbolic items present on the island for the majority of the boys' stay, and by examining these symbols we can trace their decline of civilization.

The most obvious of these symbolic items is the conch. Ralph first blows the conch on the beach with Piggy after they discover it in the lagoon to call the other boys from whom they're separated, and being used in this capacity it becomes a strong symbol of civilization and order. Ralph is even distinguished from the rest as a suitable leader because he's "the being that [blows the shell], waiting for them on the platform with that delicate thing balancing on his knees"(19).

He uses the conch shell to govern meetings, and give a sense of power by allowing whoever holds the shell the right to speak. As time passes on the island this rule for talking in turn is respected less and less, certainly by members such as Jack, who constantly tells Piggy to "shut up" despite the fact that he clearly has the right to speak. Ralph even realizes at one pivotal point that this is happening, and fears to blow the conch: "If I blow the conch and they don't come back[,] then we've had it"(99).

Chaos ensues of course, leading to the death of Piggy and the destruction of the conch when Roger pushes a rock onto him, which represents the full transition to savagery of the boys: From here on they're a bloodthirsty pack of painted little...