The Symbolism of the Conch Shell in Lord of the Flies by William Golding

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The Symbolism of the Conch

In Lord of the Flies, several symbols are used to illustrate important ideas that are crucial to the plot and meaning of the book. One of these symbols is the conch: this rare shell is not only a precious and expensive in the world of merchandise; it also holds a dark and mysterious power over a group of English boys, lost on an island with no adults, clues, or means of escape. The boys set up a civilization and try to live in the society they have set up. This system works for a while, aided by the power of the conch. However, as the story advances, the civilized way of life that the boys have set up starts falling apart, and savagery starts luring certain boys outside of the safe and rational walls of civilization. William Golding intertwines the fast-paced, enticing story of the boys’ plight on the island and the descent into savagery with the powerful and deeply meaningful symbolism of the conch.

The conch bestows a strange power on Ralph: it is with this that he calls the all the boys together from where they were, scattered and lost all over the big island. By blowing into it, Ralph produced a blaring, strident noise, booming across the jungle. When everyone is gathered, Ralph immediately has the other boys in awe and interested by the conch. He has their uninterrupted attention as they make plans to figure out the situation that they have, literally, “landed” into. The boys ignore Jack’s arrogant confidence and unanimously turn towards Ralph as their leader, for “there was a stillness about Ralph as he sat that marked him out: there was his size, and attractive appearance; and must obscurely, yet most powerfully, there was the conch (22).” The conch, again, gives Ralph a mysterious power; this “gleaming white tusk” has the gift of bestowing power upon the person holding it.

Not only does the conch bring the boys together and influence them to choose Ralph as their leader, it becomes a sacred object among the boys, a...
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