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The Symbolic Meaning Depicted in William Golding's Lord of the Flies

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The novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding tells the story of English schoolboys who become stranded on an island after a plane crash, and their slow descent from civilization to savagery. The story is an allegory; the characters as well as several objects all carry a symbolic meaning to them. Democracy and the laws of civilization are represented through a conch shell. The signal fire represents the boys’ connection to civilization and their desire to return to it. The “Lord of the Flies”, a severed sow’s head, symbolizes the inherent darkness of man. In chapter one, Ralph and Piggy find the conch shell, which becomes the boys’ reminder of civilized order. They use the conch is to summon all of the lost boys, who have been scattered by the plane crash. Surprisingly loud, the children can hear the “deep, harsh note” (Golding, 12) of the conch miles away. Once gathered, the first rule that the boys invent is this: when at assembly, whichever boy holds the conch in his hands has the right to speak. “We’ll have to have ‘Hands up’ like at school… Then I’ll give them the conch… He can hold it when he’s speaking,” decrees Ralph (Golding, 31). The conch is therefore a democratic power among the boys, as each boy theoretically has equal rights to voice his thoughts and be listened to. In one instance “Simon open[s] his mouth to speak but Ralph ha[s] the conch, so he back[s] into his seat” (Golding, 92). As civilization loses its dominance in the boys’ society, the conch begins to loose its influence. Towards the end of the novel, Ralph attempts to use the conch in Jack’s camp. “He put the conch to his lips and began to blow. Savages appeared… Ralph took his lips away and paused to get his breath back. His first words were… ‘I’m call... ... middle of paper ... ... faints he looks into the mouth of the pig and sees the “blackness within, a blackness that spread” (Golding, 159). When Simon wakes and makes his way down the mountain to tell the other boys there is no beast, they mistake him for a monster, and consumed by their rampant savage nature, murder him. Therefore, William Golding’s novel, The Lord of the Flies is allegorical. The laws of civilization as well as democracy are represented through a conch shell. The signal fire signifies the boys’ connection to civilization and their desire to return to it. The “Lord of the Flies”, symbolizes the inherent darkness of man. In following these symbols throughout the novel the boys’ descent from civilization to savagery can be traced. William Golding says, in an explanation of his novel, “if you don’t have laws, then you’re lost, you’re finished, you’re gone.”
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