Symbolism and Imagery in Lord of the Flies

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Lord of the Flies
Symbolism and Imagery

Throughout everyday life people use certain symbols, or images, to relate their feelings and unconscious thoughts to something more tangible and concrete. To a young child, a special blanket might provide them with a sense of security and comfort; furthermore, said blanket may include the ability to calm the child in a state of distress. Someone who had recently lost a loved one, might use objects that contain a degree of sentimental value in order to better hold onto the memories of the lost relationship. The symbol of the maple leaf, to Canadians, represents a sense of belonging and acceptance, a sense of pride and loyalty to a society and culture unique to that of Canada. In his novel Lord of the Flies, Golding provides his audience with endless amounts of symbolism and imagery. Some of the more prominent ones demonstrated in his novel include that of the Conch; representing order and democracy, the Fire; representing hope and rescue, and lastly, but possibly most importantly, that of the Beast; representing Fear and uncertainty. As the novel progresses and evolves, so too, do the symbols of the conch, fire, and beast. Through the use of his symbols, Golding challenges his audience’s pre-societal-conceived views, provides an overall commentary about the devolvement of mankind, and emphasizes his grander ideas about humanity and the mounting savagery that exists on the island.

In the earliest stages of the novel, the symbol of the conch holds an inexplicably awe-inspiring compulsion over the boys. Piggy, being the first to point it out among the creepers, is amazed by its beauty and intricacies. Described as “glistening” and “delicate” the conch demands attention, not only in description but as well as sound. “Gosh!” Ralph had whispered in a sense of wonder following the initial sounding of the booming horn. As the children gather from all corners of the island they are immediately drawn to Ralph; “But there was stillness about Ralph as he sat that marked him out: there was his size, his appearance, and most obscurely, yet most powerfully, there was the conch.”(Golding 19). Through electing Ralph as their chosen leader, the boys make the unconscious decision of democracy, clinging to their traditions of society and, in turn, their civility and, what could arguably be, their inner “goodness.” As one of his first roles as Chief, Ralph establishes what is known as the “Rule of the Conch”: if one wishes to speak, they must hold the conch and cannot be interrupted, except by Ralph thus creating a divide between himself and the average individual of the island civilization- Sufficiently furthering the theory that the conch stands for democratic rule and society. After all, what is society other than rules and regulations made by those in a position of authority meant for the common man to fallow? As the concept of time, both natural (day and night) and well as artistic (plot development), progresses the conch’s power, and, in turn, Ralphs’, start to diminish. Jacks presence and the evil he represents grow increasingly more powerful and dominant; “Jack broke in, contemptuously. ‘You’re always scared’ ‘I got the conch.’ ‘Conch! Conch! Shouted Jack, ‘We don’t need the conch anymore.’”(Golding, 37) indicates that the power of democratic society is crumbling under the weight of the growing savagery on the island. Jack begins to outwardly and publicly undermine and oppose Ralph, the rule of the conch and, more largely, society and civility itself. He speaks out of turn, accuses Ralph of being a coward and takes over leadership on multiple occasions; demonstrated in their hunt for the Beast in chapters six and seven- Jack continuously takes the lead while Ralph strays behind to ponder inwardly and with Simon. “The conch’s symbolic meaning...
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