2 June. 2014
The Power of Symbols
When one is a member of a relatively stable society, it is fairly simple to declare that one would never engage in the kinds of violence that are observed in unstable societies. Objects and symbols however, can produce such a powerful grip on society that it drives some people to the point of desperation and irrationality due to the believed power that they are supposed to have. Throughout Golding’s The Lord of the Flies there are many examples of this that take time to develop their power throughout the story. The conch was a symbol for law and order, providing a method of how to get your voice across in a meeting, or that you should be listened to. The conch however, seemed to take over some of the children present to show they have ultimate power whilst holding the conch. The fire, is a symbol of intended rescue and hope, and serves to be that way for a large portion of the book, but it becomes an object to be clung upon in desperation. The Beast, which was intended to be hunted and eradicated, turns into a symbol of ourselves and the Beast inside each one of us, which we cannot hunt down and destroy. Throughout The Lord of the Flies, the symbolism of the conch, the fire, and the Beast become increasingly larger in terms of invented strength, each manipulating the society in some fashion, which shows that symbols that we assign power to can morph the fashion in which we think.
The conch, discovered by Ralph and Piggy at the very beginning of the book, is used for law and order throughout the majority of the book. One would hold the conch in a meeting in order to start communicating ideas across, but not any other time without the conch. The idea of this civilized society was appealing to the entire group of children and they obeyed it quite vigorously at the start. The ideology however, led to some of the boys to start overestimating the power of the conch. When Jack and Piggy start to have an argument at a meeting, this segment of the argument happens: “‘Who cares what you believe—Fatty!’ ‘I got the conch!’”(Golding 112). When Jack yells at piggy for his beliefs, Piggy retaliates by saying how he has the conch shell and that he suggests he has speaking power at the moment. This shows the conch having authority as even though Jack is usually very intimidating, Piggy is brave enough to stand up to Jack because of the conch he is holding. Later on, after the death of Simon, Ralph is caught in a slight depression, when it’s stated that “Ralph’s voice, low and stricken, stopped Piggy’s gestures. He bent down and waited. Ralph, cradling the conch, rocked himself to and fro” (193). In the sorrow of Simon’s murder, Ralph possibly subliminally clings onto the conch as a means of support, as it once represented order and being civil, and Ralph cannot seem to dismiss that idea out of his head as he is in an unstable state of mind and is looking for something familiar to latch onto. The conch also seems to have Piggy under the impression that he is somewhat invincible whilst having possession of the conch. When Jack has taken control of basically all of the island, and basically cut off all of Ralph and Piggy’s supports, Piggy decides to state this: ‘“What can he do more than he has? I’ll tell him what’s what. You let me carry the conch, Ralph. I’ll show him the one thing he hasn’t got”’ (210). Piggy truly believes that when holding the conch he is immune to any danger that will be forthcoming. This shows how dependant Piggy has become to the conch being his way of getting his point of view across, and for the most part it has done that part in the society that once existed. Now however, he’s relying on that tactic working although the society is now in ruins, which leads to his own death. This shows how the conch’s symbol for law and order led the children to false power and judgement.
The fire is an evolving symbol throughout the story, going from rescue