Symbolism in Lord of the Flies

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The given essay attempts to reveal particular symbols in the novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding. The novel depicts an unpopulated island and a group of British boys who stumped there trying to control themselves, with fatal consequences. The book tells about the horrible truths and uncovered secrets that were enough successful not to be revealed. The writer clarifies the role of the society in repressing the followers’ minds. To his opinion, “man” is deceived when reflectively conceding himself at the very height of morality and the perception of civilization. As mentioned above, the hidden truths cannot be so everlasting; and thus, Golding decides to fill the novel Lord of the Flies with the description of background of lies and pretenses. He builds the plot of the book on the most ‘civilized’ British society, depicting English school boys to sustain his views (Golding).


The book Lord of the Flies contains many symbols including four main characters Piggy, Jack, Simon, and Ralph reflecting different spheres of the unavoidable change from good to evil, from civilization and beatitude to primitivism and instinct that happens when people find themselves in an environment without complete authority and rules. Furthermore, all the following symbols convey the deep meaning: Beast, the Sow, Plane Crash, Forest Scar, Island, Conch, Eyeglasses of Piggy and Piggy Himself, Signal Fire, Dead Parachutist, The Naval Officer, The Killing of the Second Pig, Jack’s Knife, Sticks Sharpened Into Spears, Jack and Ralph, Lord of the Flies. Golding uses symbolism to depict his faith in the nature of humanity and develop and support his theme.

The Conch is a leading symbol of authority, civilization and order. It is one of the several things that keep the boys in order and complicity throughout the book. It is miraculous to the boys to call meetings, who in most cases admire it. In the end, when the conch is broken, power on the island disappears, and Ralph has to rely on himself. Piggy and Ralph find a conch and use it to arrange a meeting. The boys establish a “rule of the conch” on themselves resolving that no one can speak until one of them holds the conch. As a symbol of authority, the conch helps Ralph in elections. After he fails to lead a putsch, he does not throw the conch and sets it down with great care in the grass at his feet.

At the same time, the conch means that the symbols of power such as crowns and flags are spurious and have no more sense except this mysterious shell that Ralph picks up from the grass. Rules have the power in case people agree with them; therefore, Ralph is afraid to miss the conch after understanding that things are falling through. Finally, the conch is broken due to the cruel Roger, and Jack runs forward shouting that now he can be the leader. He feels greedy because, without the conch, the power is available once again. The conch is definitely associated both with Ralph and Piggy who are the ones to identify it and revert to its power. Finally, they both die at the same time. The destruction of the conch represents the end of the civilized instinct among the boys on the island (Shmoop Editorial Team).

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Piggy’s glasses are a symbol of science and intellectual endeavor in society and show a slow and inevitable descent into anarchy and evil. While the boys on the island are busy undressing to hunt pigs, one symbol shows progress, innovation, and godsend: Piggy’s glasses. On the one hand, the glasses are an elementary symbol; its importance and significance are visible from the very beginning of the novel. The glasses mean intelligence. Piggy knows things which are unknown to other boys, for example, the use of the conch and the importance of laws and rules. Piggy’s vision is the prominent attribute, and it is the reason the boys do not oust him absolutely. Without his glasses, he cannot see anything; he is useless, as well as the world he represents. When the glasses break, one more connection to civilization disappears. Broken glasses were dreadfully misused. They are no longer a symbol of brains and knowledge but of how the boys have become uncivilized. Piggy’s glasses are always roughly thrown down and finally get broken. This is a symbol of the boys’ violence. When the glasses are broken all hope of being saved is smashed with them (Shmoop Editorial Team).

The Signal Fire is a reflection of common sense and deliverance from immorality. It burns in order to attract the attention of passing ships that might save the boys from the island. Thus, the signal fire is a bridge of the boys’ ties with the civilized world. In the first part of the book, the boys keep up the fire as a sign that they want to be saved and come back to society. When the fire burns out, the readers understand that the boys have lost the hope to be rescued and have put up with their wild lives on the island. Ironically, a fire finally draws a ship to the island. However, it is not the signal fire but the forest fire of cruelty when Jack’s band begins to hunt and murder Ralph (SparkNotes Editors).


In conclusion, Lord of the Flies is a novel saturated with allegories. Almost each character and object signify important theme and reveal the deep sense, yet Golding does not use highly poetic language, long descriptions and philosophical views. Depicting things infused with symbolic significance, the author conveys the broad range of human reaction to stress and changes.

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