The Lord of the Flies
William Golding
Contributed by Karim Chandra
Symbols are objects or figures that artists use to represent an idea.
Conch Shell
The conch symbolizes civilization and structure. Its glowing, white appearance epitomizes beauty and purity, suggesting these are attributes of social order. During the novel’s initial chapters, the boys use the conch to organize themselves. When Ralph first discovers the conch, the boys respect and admire it. Since the conch symbolizes civilization, Jack — the beacon of disorder and anarchy — begins to loathe it. He believes the conch loses its relevance when he deems Ralph’s leadership inadequate. However, Piggy and Ralph regard the conch as a sacred emblem of civility and cooperation. Piggy clings to the conch until his death, believing in its ability to bring order to the boys against all odds.
Piggy’s Glasses
Piggy’s glasses symbolize technological advancement, rationality, and intelligence. Moreover, they serve as an extension of Piggy’s innate wisdom and superior reasoning abilities. No other boy on the island possesses an intellectual ability like Piggy’s. Before making any decisions or suggestions, he evaluates problems and advocates for their most logical solutions. Given that Piggy’s intelligence mirrors that of an adult, he often scolds the boys for their unreasonable and childish behaviors. As a sign of technological innovation and progress, his glasses are used to start the all-important signal fire. It makes sense, then, that the wisest and most thoughtful boy wears the glasses that enable them to escape the island. Notably, in Chapter 11, Piggy appears almost useless without his glasses. When he, Ralph, and Samneric go to Castle Rock to explain to Jack that they desperately need the glasses, Piggy has lost his spark of wisdom and intelligence.
The Lord of the Flies
The pig’s head mounted on the spear becomes known as the Lord of the Flies, and it represents evil and moral decay in society. When the Lord of the Flies informs Simon, in Chapter 8, that it is a part of him, this suggests the inevitability of evil in humankind. Ironically, Simon is one of the calmest and most innocent of the boys; yet, the Lord of the Flies announces its presence in his soul. Simon reflects upon the other boys’ actions and becomes convinced that evil may also live deep within his heart. Before he can do anything to correct it, though, the boys murder Simon. When they do, any hope of salvation dies with him.
The Fire
The fire, seen throughout the novel as both a source of comfort and danger, symbolizes the volatility of human emotions. The boys celebrate when they use Piggy’s glasses to start a fire because it supplies them with food, warmth, and hope for getting rescued. However, when they first light a signal fire, it becomes uncontrollable and consumes one of the littluns. Later, when Jack’s hunters pursue Ralph, they deliberately start an uncontrolled fire to hurt him. Whenever fire becomes unmanageable, it is hazardous. Likewise, when human beings fail to control their emotions, they can damage social progress and cooperation. Though fire ultimately leads to the boys’ rescue, it would have consumed them all had the naval officer not arrived in time. Just like fire, emotions should be carefully controlled.
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