Symbol Analysis Of Lord Of The Flies English Literature Essay

In 1954, Lord of the Flies was written by William Golding, depicting the tale of British school boys trapped on an island as a result of a plane crash. After the crash, three main characters are introduced, Ralph, Jack, and Piggy. When the boys are reunited with each other and settle down, Golding implements three major symbols within the book. To start, the symbol of the conch is a representation to the boys of power. Thus whoever has the conch has the ability to speak. The conch in the book also represents civilization and democracy, incidentally being Ralphs style of leadership among the group. The second symbol used within the book is Piggy’s glasses, which serves as a representation of intelligence, chiefly in the form of Piggy’s own. The third and last prop is the fire. The fire serves to represent not only hope of being rescued, but destruction as well. As the civilization the boy create begins to tumble down, these props, which are remnants of civilization are lost as, well. Therefore, William Golding requires us to have a deep understanding of the symbolic presence of the conch, glasses, and fire in order to understand the novel.

At the beginning of the novel, Ralph and Piggy find a conch shell lying on the beach and use it to gather the boys together. The conch shell then serves the purpose of a microphone, proving to be a effective way of governing the meetings the boys have, for the boy who is in possessing of the shell has the right to speak. An example of how this works can be understood when Ralph says,” I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak. He can hold it when he is speaking.” (33) In this form, the conch is used as a powerful symbol of civilization and order in Golding’s novel. In regard to that the conch is more than a symbol, it is actually a container of political truth and democratic power. The conch shell however later loses its power among the boys as the civilization that once had descended upon the island was replaced by savagery. The example of the conch’s loss of power is when Piggy says,” You could call an assembly?” (156) and Ralph is seen responding with laughter, indicating his realization that the former power of the conch is now extinguished. The conch is also a important representation of Ralphs emotional state, which is exemplified when Ralph clutches on to the shell desperately when he talks about his role in Simons murder. The loss of the conch’s power can be even further shown when Ralph tries to blow the conch in Jack’s camp as his former supporters throw stones at him. Later, when Roger rolls a boulder on Piggy’s head, the conch is destroyed, displaying the demise of any civilized instinct of any of the boys on the island. This is a major expression of Jack’s own leadership style, by presenting that Jack has no use for the conch with his own dictatorship style of government, in which his word is law.

On the island, the most intelligent and rational boy is Piggy. This is already exhibited in early stages of the book, when he often quotes his auntie, which further symbolizes his deeper connection to the outside world. An example of this is indicated when he says in chapter one,” My auntie told me not to run. on account of my asthma.” (9) As a result, his glasses represent the power of science and intellectual undertaking in society. The power of science can also be seen early in book, in chapter two, when the boys use Piggy’s lenses to focus sunlight and start a fire. The book also depicts that when the scientific power is placed in the hands of savagery, it causes destruction. This is exhibited when Jack shouts,” His specs use them as burning glasses.” (40) The event, in turn, makes a fire so great that it burns down the nearby forest down. Near the end, when Jack’s hunters raid Ralph’s camp, they take Piggy’s glasses, successfully taking the power to make fire. This in turn leaves Ralph’s group helpless. Despite the glasses still being on the island, once in the hands of savagery the intelligence of the prop has become completely worthless and destructive. The result of Jacks crew and their successful steal of Piggy’s glasses bring forth a destructive fire which burns down the entire forest on the island.

The signal fire is perhaps the most ironic symbol within the whole novel. The fire burns on the mountain, and later on the beach as well. It is used to attract, passing ships in hopes that they will be rescued. As a result of this, the fire becomes a symbol of the connection that they boys have to civilization. In early parts of the novel, the boys desperately want to keep the fire going, representing their need to return to society. However, when the fire extinguishes we come to understand that the boys have lost sight of their desire to be saved and return to civilization. Furthermore, it makes plain that the boys have started to gradually accept their savage ways on the island. However Ralph, Piggy, and several other boys are seen to be exceptions. This can be seen in chapter eleven when Piggy says in a shrilled voice,” They have our fire, They stole it!” (169) Piggy says this after his glasses are stolen in the previous chapter, the strange thing however is that although Piggy’s glasses have been stolen, he is much more worried about the fire rather than his glasses. This is an example of his extreme desire to be rescued, putting his eyesight second. The signal fire thus acts as a measurement of the strength of the civilized instinct among the boys. The ironic part, is when Jack and his group try to lure Ralph out of the forest to kill him, they start a fire in the forest hoping he would run out to avoid being burnt to death. The fire caused by Jack and his group of savages in turn not only causes Ralph to run out it garners the attention of nearby naval ships that come and rescue the boys. The irony of this is that instead of a fire meant to alert nearby ships to come and rescue them, a fire of destruction and savagery ultimately calls the naval officer over.

As the novel progresses towards the end, we are finally able to truly understand how the props function in different leadership styles. In chapter eleven when Roger drops a boulder on top of Piggy destroying the conch, all hope and remnants of civilization have perished. To expand on that, the loss of the conch’s power already had started in earlier chapters of the book, with examples of Jack telling Piggy that the conch does not work on the mountain. Unlike the conch, however, Piggy’s glasses remain on the island until the end of the book, in which their power is abused by Jack and his group of savages. The same as the glasses, the fire as well remains until the end, having served both its purposes on both Ralph’s side of democracy and Jack’s dictatorship. The symbols of the props in Lord of the Flies are constantly demonstrated in opposing viewpoints of the different leadership styles of that of Ralph and Jack, which in turn allows the readers of the novel to paint their own conclusion about the different styles. Through the usage of the props: the conch, glasses, and fire we are able to deepen our understanding of how different types of human thoughts function.

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