The Use of Symbolism in Golding's Lord of the Flies

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The Use of Symbolism in Golding's Lord of the Flies

"His head opened and stuff came out and turned red. Piggy's arms and legs twitched a bit like a pig after it has been killed" (217). This is what can happen to someone when all signs of civilization, order and power disappear and have no more meaning to members of a group or society. In the writing of William Golding's Lord of the Flies (1954), the symbol of power and civilization is the conch. Once that is lost, all bets are off. When the novel begins, two boys are talking about what has happened and why they are on this island. While walking on the beach, the main character Ralph then proceeds to find a shell which the two boys call the conch. Blowing on this shell Ralph calls a meeting where the boys lay out rules and decide they need a signal fire to be rescued from this island on which there are no adults and no females. During the meeting Jack, a choir boy, decides to organize a group of hunters to hunt for food. As the story progresses, Ralph finds himself and Jack to be enemies. Then the "lord of the flies" begins to emerge within the group, many of whom begin to take on savage behavior, and end up killing Simon. Jack then decides to go and start his own tribe; he and a lot of the others do so. Even as the conflict increases between the two rivals, there is ongoing respect for the conch. The same savages later kill the character Piggy who was not doing anything to them except trying to get his glasses back that were stolen to make the fire. Then they try to kill Ralph; however, in the end all are rescued before they are ever able to reach Ralph. Throughout the story, civilization is being more and more withdrawn from the boys' consciousness, and yet the conch has th...

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...the end the conch is destroyed and all hope seems to be lost for the one called Ralph. The conch is all the power he has, but it is killed along with Piggy. Fortunately for Ralph, the boys don't get to kill anymore, for another symbol of civilization, an adult, arrives to replace the power of the conch on their island. The adult asks what is going on and if there are any dead.

The conch, which had the power to unify and civilize this abandoned society for a short while, proved to be ineffective and powerless. Just as it was an empty, lifeless shell, which contained no life, it could not bring life and order to the world of these lost boys. It took a living symbol, another human, to rescue and restore sanity to those who survived this island experience.

Work Cited

Golding, William. The Lord of the Flies. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, Inc., 1962
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