What Does The Conch Represent In Lord Of The Flies Essay Typer
Choose a novel in which an important theme is explored. Explain how the author develops this theme throughout the novel.
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a novel in which the theme of savagery versus civilisation is explored. Some British boys are stranded on an isolated island at the time of an imaginary nuclear war. On the island we see conflict between two main characters, Jack and Ralph, who respectively represent civilisation and savagery. This has an effect on the rest of the boys throughout the novel as they delve further and further into savagery.
The theme of savagery versus civilisation is first introduced to us through the symbol of the conch shell which we associate with Ralph as he is the person who first uses it and becomes the elected leader of the boys. This symbolises authority amongst the boys. At the first assembly Ralph says “I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak…he won’t be interrupted”. This suggests civilisation as Ralph is allowing each boy to have an equal say and opinion. If they have the conch, no matter who they are or what age they are they will be given the chance to speak and will be listened to by the rest of the boys. The boys have created the island to be a democratic place which shows a civilised side to them as they try to mimic the homes they have just left.
Contrasting with the symbol of the conch is the symbol of the beast which comes to be associated with Jack as by the end of the novel he is almost devil worshipping it. The beast begins as a “snake thing” but by the end of the novel it has become “the Lord of the Flies”. The first quote shows us that the beast is clearly evil. Western society considers snakes to be bad omens because it was a snake that led Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge. However at this stage of the novel the beast is quite insubstantial as it is only a “thing”. As the boys fear of the beast grows so to does the beast itself until it has manifested into the devil – the ultimate and most powerful evil. He has a strong status as a Lord although it is over something pretty disgusting – the flies. The boys belief in the beast leads them to behave more like savages as they act out from their fear and they begin to loose hold of the rules, led by Jack, thus demonstrating the theme of savagery.
One of ways Golding shows conflict between savagery and civilisation is when Jack and some of the other boys are killing the first pig. Jack chants “kill the pig, cut her throat, spill the blood”. This suggests savagery as the boys are being violent and aggressive when killing the pig and they don’t care about it. This is particularly clear through Golding’s word choice. Jack talks about cutting the pig’s throat which makes it sound like a savage action and spilling her blood which reinforces the lack of care and feeling shown towards the pug’s carcass. This shows that the boys are no longer feeling guilty about what they have done thus showing them becoming savages.
We can see the conflict between savagery and civilisation developing further when Piggy’s glasses are broken. We are told “Piggy cried out in terror ‘my specs!” This shows us that the boys savage natures are beginning to overule their more civilised sides. At the start of the book Jack would never have dared touch Piggy, but here he actually snaps and goes for Piggy who he despises. We can tell that Piggy is really scared as Golding chooses the words “cried” and “terror” to describe the scene. Piggy sounds like he is hurting and is genuinely terrified about what Jack might do to him and the loss of his sight. Piggy’s glasses have also come to represent intelligence on the island, with them breaking we see that the pathway to savagery is now completely open for the boys. This is the first true piece of violence between the two factions on the island and it will result in nearly all the boys becoming savages.
A final way in which we see the theme of savagery versus civilisation being demonstrated is when Ralph sticks up for Piggy after he is attacked by Jack. Ralph says “that was a dirty trick”. This shows that Ralph is really angry at Jack for what he said and did to Piggy. He is still attempting to impose himself as leader here as he says this in an aggressive and assertive tone. This suggests there is still some glimmers of civilisation on the island at this point as there is still someone with a sense of moral goodness ready to fight for justice.
In conclusion The Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a novel in which the theme of savagery versus civilisation is shown. Ralph represents civilisation as he wants to enforce rules and let everyone have an equal say. Whereas Jack who represents savagery as he rules over the boys and he is not interested in what they have to say. Through the boys actions Golding shows us that we need rules and to consciously impose them to make sure society functions properly.
Lord of the Flies SymbolismGet Your
Starting at Just $13.90 a page
?The Conch Shell Ralph and Piggy discover the conch shell on the beach at the start of the novel and use it to summon the boys together after the crash separates them. Used in this capacity, the conch shell becomes a powerful symbol of civilization and order in the novel. The shell effectively governs the boys’ meetings, for the boy who holds the shell holds the right to speak. In this regard, the shell is more than a symbol—it is an actual vessel of political legitimacy and democratic power. As the island civilization erodes and the boys descend into savagery, the conch shell loses its power and influence among them.
Ralph clutches the shell desperately when he talks about his role in murdering Simon. Later, the other boys ignore Ralph and throw stones at him when he attempts to blow the conch in Jack’s camp. The boulder that Roger rolls onto Piggy also crushes the conch shell, signifying the demise of the civilized instinct among almost all the boys on the island. The conch is used in many scenes in Lord of the Flies to call the boys to order. No boy may speak unless he is holding the conch and once he is holding it, he cannot be interrupted.
They boys have imposed this “rule of the conch” on themselves, and thus the conch represents society’s rules, politics, and speech. The conch is a big part of the boys choosing to vote for a chief, and it also allows anyone to speak when they hold it. Notice that, after the conch is broken in to a thousand pieces, Jack runs forward screaming that now he can be chief? The reason he couldn’t be chief before, at least not his kind of chief, is that the conch still allowed Piggy to quiet all the others boys down and demand they listen. With no conch, power is once again up for grabs, and Jack is feeling grabby. Piggy’s Glasses
Piggy is the most intelligent, rational boy in the group, and his glasses represent the power of science and intellectual endeavor in society. This symbolic significance is clear from the start of the novel, when the boys use the lenses from Piggy’s glasses to focus the sunlight and start a fire. When Jack’s hunters raid Ralph’s camp and steal the glasses, the savages effectively take the power to make fire, leaving Ralph’s group helpless. While the boys on the island revert to primitive ways with their hunting, nakedness, and face painting, there is still one symbol of advancement, of innovation and discovery.
Yes, that’s right, we’re talking about Piggy’s glasses. The boys find themselves at an utter loss for a way to start the fire. Jack mumbles something about rubbing two sticks together, but the fact is the boys just aren’t wilderness-savvy enough to do this. Because they aren’t equipped for roughin’ it for real, they have to rely on some remaining relics of their old world. So, of course, the glasses breaking mean they are in danger of losing touch with the civilized world they’ve left behind. With one lens broken, they’ve got one foot over the line.
But let’s also remember that the glasses are, in fact, a pair of glasses, primarily intended for looking through. Looking = vision, and vision = sight, and sight = a metaphor for knowledge. Piggy knows things the other boys don’t, like how to use the conch, and the necessity for laws and order. Part of the reason he gets so upset when they take his glasses is that, without them, he can’t see anything. “Seeing” is Piggy’s greatest attribute; it’s the one reason the boys don’t ostracize him completely; it’s the one way he’s useful. Without his glasses, then, he’s useless, something that no one wants to be.
The Signal Fire The signal fire burns on the mountain, and later on the beach, to attract the notice of passing ships that might be able to rescue the boys. As a result, the signal fire becomes a barometer of the boys’ connection to civilization. In the early parts of the novel, the fact that the boys maintain the fire is a sign that they want to be rescued and return to society. When the fire burns low or goes out, we realize that the boys have lost sight of their desire to be rescued and have accepted their savage lives on the island.
The signal fire thus functions as a kind of measurement of the strength of the civilized instinct remaining on the island. Ironically, at the end of the novel, a fire finally summons a ship to the island, but not the signal fire. Instead, it is the fire of savagery—the forest fire Jack’s gang starts as part of his quest to hunt and kill Ralph. Fire is used in several ways in Lord of the Flies. From the very beginning of the novel, Ralph is determined to keep a signal fire going, in case a ship passes near to the island.
That’s fine until the first signal fire the boys light begins burning out of control, and at least one boy is missing (read: burned up). The fire thus becomes a symbol, paradoxically, of both hope of rescue and of destruction. Ironically, it is because of a fire that Jack lights at the end of the novel – in his attempt to hunt and kill Ralph – that the boys are rescued. What could that possibly mean, the fact that rescue equals destruction? It brings us back, as all these symbols do, to The Big Massive Allegory of the novel.
If the boys’ world is just an allegory for the real world, then they’re not being rescued at all; they’re just going on to a larger scale of violence and, yes, that’s right, destruction. Hence, rescue equals destruction. The Beast The imaginary beast that frightens all the boys stands for the primal instinct of savagery that exists within all human beings. The boys are afraid of the beast, but only Simon reaches the realization that they fear the beast because it exists within each of them. As the boys grow more savage, their belief in the beast grows stronger.
By the end of the novel, the boys are leaving it sacrifices and treating it as a totemic god. The boys’behavior is what brings the beast into existence, so the more savagely the boys act, the more real the beast seems to become. In Lord of the Flies, the beast begins as a product of the boys’ imaginations. The smaller boys are afraid of things they see at night; rather than be blindly afraid of The Great Unknown, they give their fear a name and a shape in their minds. You can’t defeat a “nothing,” but you can hunt and kill a “something. ” The next evolution in the myth of the beast is the dead parachuting man.
It’s no coincidence that the boys catch a glimpse of a dark, UNKNOWN object and immediately call it the beast; we wouldn’t be surprised if they were relieved to finally have seen the thing. It’s kind of like how the masters of horror films don’t actually show you the horror, because what you can imagine is worse than anything you could see. Of course, it’s interesting that Golding chooses to make this manifestation of the boys’ fear a man — and not just a man, but a solider coming in from the war. Not only that, but the parachuting man flies in, in response to Piggy’s request for a “sign” from the adult world.
It’s ironic that the best the adults can come up with is a man dead of their own violence, and it hints at the allegory and the end of the novel. This is the point where we start getting some real insight into the beast, via Piggy, who says the beast is just fear, and via Simon, who insists that the beast is “only us. ” This is an interesting comment, since the beast is literally “only us:” it’s a person that fell from the sky. In fact, when the twins list off the horrible attributes of the creature they saw, they reveal that it has both “teeth” and “eyes. ” Yes, that’s right, most people have teeth and eyes.
So Simon is correct in more ways than just one. Even more interesting yet is the moment when Ralph and Jack discover the dead man and think of it as a “giant ape. ” What have the boys started to prove except that man is nothing more than a giant ape himself? But while the beast is in fact literally a man, that’s not what Simon means when he says that it is “only us. ” He’s talking about the beast being the darkness that is inside each and every one of us. If this is true, then, as the Lord of the Flies later suggests, it is absurd to think that the beast is something “you could hunt and kill. If it’s inside all of us, not only can’t we hunt it, but we can never see it, never give it form, and never defeat it. When Simon has his meditation-scene with the pig’s head, the Lord of the Flies says to him, “I’m the beast. ” This makes his other words literally true; you can’t hunt and kill the beast, because they’ve already hunted and killed the pig and it’s still talking to you. Even later, when Ralph smashes the skull, he only widens its smile, “now six feet across” as it lies “grinning at the sky. ” This thing just won’t die, and it torments Ralph so much because it “knows all the answers and won’t tell. ”
Now to Ralph, that’s a rather silent devilish pig’s head, given that four chapters earlier it was talking with Simon. It seems that the Lord of the Flies gave over its knowledge to Simon, but only to Simon. In his death, then, Simon took that wisdom with him. What wisdom are we talking about? Simon already knew, it seems, that the beast was simply the darkness of man’s heart, but the talking pig’s head actually confirms it, telling him “I’m part of you […] close, close close. ” The Lord of the Flies The Lord of the Flies is the bloody, severed sow’s head that Jack impales on a stake in the forest glade as an offering to the beast.
This complicated symbol becomes the most important image in the novel when Simon confronts the sow’s head in the glade and it seems to speak to him, telling him that evil lies within every human heart and promising to have some “fun” with him. (This“fun” foreshadows Simon’s death in the following chapter. ) In this way, the Lord of the Flies becomes both a physical manifestation of the beast, a symbol of the power of evil, and a kind of Satan figure who evokes the beast within each human being. Looking at the novel in the context of biblical parallels, the Lord of the Flies recalls the devil, just as Simon recalls Jesus.
In fact, the name “Lord of the Flies” is a literal translation of the name of the biblical name Beelzebub, a powerful demon in hell sometimes thought to be the devil himself. Ralph, Piggy, Jack, Simon, and Roger Lord of the Flies is an allegorical novel, and many of its characters signify important ideas or themes. Ralph represents order, leadership, and civilization. Piggy represents the scientific and intellectual aspects of civilization. Jack represents unbridled savagery and the desire for power. Simon represents natural human goodness. Roger represents brutality and bloodlust at their most extreme.
To the extent that the boys’ society resembles a political state, the littluns might be seen as the common people, while the older boys represent the ruling classes and political leaders. The relationships that develop between the older boys and the younger ones emphasize the older boys’ connection to either the civilized or the savage instinct: civilized boys like Ralph and Simon use their power to protect the younger boys and advance the good of the group; savage boys like Jack and Roger use their power to gratify their own desires, treating the littler boys as objects for their own amusement.
Physical Appearances All right, we told you we could blame Ralph’s moments of savagery on his hair. Well, we were lying. What we meant to say was that Ralph’s hair was a symbol for his growing savagery. That shaggy mop eventually has a life of its own. The narrative always makes a point of telling us that it’s in Ralph’s face, that he wishes he could cut it, that it makes him feel dirty and uncivilized.
We know the hair has to be a big deal because the very first words of the novel are, “The boy with fair hair lowered himself down…” Getting your hair cut is one of the perks of civilization, many of which Ralph and the others have had to give up. It also reminds us that the boys have been on the island for quite a while now; this is no mere weekend getaway. Lastly, there’s something horribly disturbing about his hair just growing, growing, with no way to stop it and the assumption that it will simply go on forever, much like the boys’ growing violence and the increasingly savage occurrences on the island.
Clothing is another relic of the old world that falls by the wayside in this new one. Clothes can be ominous, as when Jack and his choir boys appear to be one long, dark creature as they travel in a pack wearing their black choir robes at the beginning. At first, the boys need to wear their clothing to avoid getting sunburned (meaning they’re not yet ready for the full island lifestyle), but they’re soon running around in loin-cloths or less, their skin and their minds having adapted to the surroundings.
Do you like
this material?Get help to write a similar one
We even see Ralph go from “the fair boy” to being downright “swarthy. ” Change is in the wind, as is a dead parachuting man from the skies above. From the moment the boys land on the island, we begin to see signs of destruction. Over and over we are told of the “scar” in the scenery left by the plane. The water they bathe in is “warmer than blood. ” The boys leave “gashes” in the trees when they travel. The lightning is a “blue-white scar” and the thunder “the blow of a gigantic whip,” later a “sulphurous explosion. Now, if you’re trying to answer the big question of whether the boys are violent by nature or were made violent by their surroundings (the island), you could argue that 1) because the island is already so steeped in violence (think the thunder and lightning), the boys couldn’t help but become part of its savagery when they arrived; or that 2) the boys put scars and gashes in the land from the get-go, suggesting they are inherent bringers of destruction and the island is the Eden they destroy.
Author: Wallace Hartsell
Lord of the Flies Symbolism
We have so large base of authors that we can prepare a unique summary of any book. Don't believe? Check it!
How fast would you like to get it?