In the “Lord of the Flies” Golding uses the conch as a symbolic, metaphorical-image to represent society and civilisation. The symbol of the conch is crucial to the idea of order and rules, and how it is slipping away from the boys. The conch’s significance is shown throughout the novel in which the conch brings them together and allows the boys to stay together but separates them as well. It is described with a purity but is also shown to be becoming less influential on the boys later in the novel particularly with Jacks disobedience with regards to the conch.
When the boys, previously scattered on the island, come together, it is the conch which makes this possible; without the conch they would have still been separated. Piggy realises “they’ll come [to them] when they hear” Ralph blow the conch. The first time the conch is blown, it heralds the birth of civilisation and order on the island. Golding, towards the beginning of the novel, already introduces the idea of society and order bringing (and keeping) the boys together. So, already the conch is becoming greatly important and influential showing its significance. The conch’s significance is then reiterated at the beginning of chapter two with the “crowded” platform from the blow of the conch; as the boys answer Ralph’s call and keep order amongst them. While the others after just one blow of the conch acknowledge the importance of rules, at the same time, so is the ability to build society in a short period of time put across. The actual fact of them being mentioned so closely together, suggests the key idea of the significance of the conch, as it is being used by Ralph to create and maintain their society on the island.
It is also significant that the conch breaks, in a horrific and vivid fashion, signalling the end of society, and any chance to salvage it. At the moment of Piggy's death, the conch:
Exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist.
The emotive language Golding uses to show the conch’s destruction shows how great the conch’s significance is. The conch did not simply break; instead it “exploded” creating a sense of importance and immensity. Here, as the conch is a symbol of society, and it "ceased to exist", so does society. The destruction of the conch in turn symbolises the destruction of any order the boys had. Both "ceased to exist" and "exploded" are particular verbs chosen by Golding contributing to the significance of the conch, showing the full force of the conch's destruction. These verbs are also very descriptive, and give the reader(s) a vivid picture of the conch's annihilation. The vivid picture is then one of horror and dread, a clear sign of society's destruction, and the brutality of it. The amount of damage done is then enforced by the "thousand white fragments", as any chance to salvage society is lost. A "thousand" is a large number of pieces to be put back together to fix the conch and therefore society. Just as "fragments" suggests such small and hard to recover pieces. Now society amongst the boys has been shattered and there is no way back.
The conch is significant in the role of order versus chaos, and good versus evil. The conch is described as “white” and Jack’s tribe is described as a “black mass”, which creates a simplistic but powerful representation of the conch’s importance in the novel. The simplicity of white and black emphasises the fact that the tribe is/has become an enemy of the conch; an enemy of society. The simplicity also emphasises the extremes between them. The conch coloured “white” suggests purity and clarity compared with the “black mass” suggesting the complete opposite, a symbol of corruption and doubt. The white and black view of the boys and of the novel creates a strong message of the conch being key to their survival, the order that exists amongst them, and what good they have left within them, but Jack’s tribe is