Imagine a world with no superior power and no rules. When a group of small boys’ plane crashes on a deserted island, they do not live with any of these. They have to survive and in the process many flaws in present society are pointed out. Certain objects can be used to show these connections and how they relate to today. In Lord of the Flies, William Golding uses a conch for a symbol of civility and power, a signal fire as a symbol for hope of rescue, and the character Jack as a symbol of immaturity and the cruelty of man.
The conch symbolizes power and civilization. When Ralph and Piggy first find the conch it is just a shell but when they decide to blow on it and realize how loud it is, it becomes an object of power. “A deep, harsh note boomed under the palms” and “clouds of birds rose from the treetops” (17). They use it in meetings to gain organization and only the person holding it can talk. As the story proceeds, the conch loses its power and eventually is hit by a boulder and “explode[s] into a thousand white fragments” (181). When this happens any humanity and organization still left is now completely lost. The conch is their tie to the real world and when it is gone it is total chaos. Although it is just a shell, it is their way to govern the island.
The signal fire is a symbol for hope of being rescued. From the beginning, Ralph is determined to keep the fire going in case a ship or aircraft passes by. He makes everyone help keep it going. But as the story proceeds, the boys lose sight of the end goal: getting off the island. When the fire goes out Ralph says, “‘The fire is the is the most important thing on the island’” and they should die before they let it go out (80-81). Anytime the fire goes out it signifies the boys’ loss of hope. By the end, Ralph is the only one who still cares about being rescued and all of the other boys are caught up in killing and having fun. When there are only three left with Ralph they still do their best to keep the fire going (163). In order to stay connected to civilization, they have to keep the fire going because it is their only hope of surviving. If the fire goes out they will not be rescued.
Jack is a symbol of savagery and the cruelty of man. Jack is introduced as head choir boy and already seems rude and somewhat cruel when Simon faints and he makes fun of Piggy calling him “‘Fatty’” (20-21). As the story progresses, Jack slowly becomes more and more uncivilized. He is described as “dog-like” and “ape-like” while hunting on his hands and knees (48-49). He does not care about being rescued, he just wants to hunt a pig. He then decides to leave Ralph and take the others. While covered in paint and naked they hunt and have feasts as well as murdering Simon and Piggy. By the end he has turned completely evil and a totally different person. This cruelty and evil could be in anyone. It may not seem like it but everyone has some evil in them and it just takes certain actions to see the results. Jack is just an example provided to show how many people are just like him.
Symbolism is a large element in Lord of the Flies. They may lose or gain importance of power throughout the book but they still hold the same truth. Any person could be the kids in the book. The conch, the fire, and Jack are just objects put in place for society. The symbols are meant to point out the good and the evil of mankind.
- Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. Penguin Books, 2006.