13 November 2018
Influence of the Conch Shell in Lord of the Flies
Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, is a disturbing novel that follows a group of young
boys stranded on an undiscovered island. After their crash on the island, the boys have to make
up for the lack of adult authority with personal responsibility and leadership. While doing so,
they encounter their inner flaws that reflect on those of society. To display these struggles,
Golding uses many different symbols throughout the novel. The clearest and most important
symbol is the conch shell, which symbolizes authority and order within the children. The usage
of this symbol helps reveal traits of the characters and supports the theme throughout the novel.
After coming together on the island, the boys decide they need to appoint a leader of their
group. One of them says “Him with the shell, let him be chief,” which shows the significance of
the conch and how much influence it has on the boys early in the novel (Golding). Once
appointed leader, Ralph makes the the conch a symbol of authority when he says, “I’ll give the
conch to the next person to speak, and he won’t be interrupted.” This action proves the
significance of the conch which is essential to tracking the relation of the symbol to the theme.
By using the conch shell as a symbol to represent authority and order, Golding portrays
traits of the characters and how their actions affect the novel. For example, Jack noticeably
begins the process of losing his civilization as he loses respect for the authority of the conch.
However, Ralph and Piggy never lose their respect of the conch causing Piggy to never lose his
civilization (due to his tragic death), and Jack to not lose his until the conch is shattered.
Once the boys begin to lose to lose civilization and respect for order and authority,
certain boys also lose respect for the authority of the conch shell. Ralph once said “I’ll blow the
conch and call an assembly” to which Jack replied with “We shan’t hear it.” At this point Jack
has disregarded all attempts to keep authority on the island. The majority of the other boys saw
this and were inspired to do the same as Jack and disregard all authority and order. When “the
conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist,” all respect for authority
and order was lost and complete savagery took over the minds of the boys on the island. Without
the conch shell there is no authority, no order, and no sense of any civilization left within them.
By using the conch shell as a symbol in Lord of the Flies, Golding reveals key details
about characters and the theme of the novel. As characters lost respect for the authority of the
conch, their impulse towards savagery began and civilization was lost. This supports the theme
that lack of authority and order causes the loss of civilization. As the conch is shattered, all
civilization is gone, and the morality and innocence of the boys is gone.