Symbolism of the Conch

Topics: William Golding, Seashell, Pearl Pages: 2 (837 words) Published: April 2, 2008
Symbolism of the Conch
Authors frequently use a powerful literary device called symbolism to express their ideas creatively and indirectly. By definition, symbolism is an object or idea that represents more than what the object or idea actually is. The conch, just a mere pretty thing that attracted attention, has more meaning than that of just being a conch shell. The conch’s symbolism can be traced throughout William Golding’s entire novel, Lord of the Flies and is a major symbol of power and order within the story. At first the conch shell effectively governs the boys and keeps them civilized. However, as civilization on the island begins to diminish and as the boys descend deeper into the abyss of savagery, the conch shell loses the power and influence it once had over the boys…

Ralph and Piggy discover this shell, at first a deep cream color with a delicate pattern, on the beach towards the start of the novel and decide to use it to summon the boys together. The shell, in this regard, is actually more than a symbol, here it used as an actual vessel of democratic power and order. The shell’s power is clearly evident even in the beginning of the novel because “…most obscurely, yet most powerfully, there was the conch.” (pg 22) There also seems to have been a growing importance for the one who holds the conch as the children vote for Ralph for leader. “ ‘Him with the shell.’ ‘Ralph! Ralph!’ ‘Let him be chief with the trumpet-thing.’ ”(pg. 22) this excerpt shows that the boys believe that since Ralph possesses the conch, he must also posses the needed leadership skills, power, and responsibility to be their chief. The shell becomes a powerful symbol of order and civilization when used. It effectively governs the boys’ meetings because the boy who holds the shell also holds the right to speak. As the story progresses the conch’s power begins to become muted and its starts to diminish.

“Exposure to the air had bleached the yellow and pink to a near-white...
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