Golding’s use of Symbolism in Lord of the Flies


English 10


March 18, 2004


Symbolism is used in a work of literature to convey a deeper meaning on the author’s intentions of writing the literary work. Symbolism can take many forms; it can be a person, object, or a particular phrase or action. Symbols in a work of literature are like clues in a complex mystery that make the literary work much more interesting and inspiring. William Golding uses many symbols in The Lord of the Flies including the conch, Piggy’s glasses, and masks. Through these symbols the author shows his feelings toward the world and foreshadows later events in the book.


The first object that is used as a symbol in the novel are Piggy’s glasses. Piggy’s eyeglasses show how the boys on the island use things, but don’t take care of them and understand them. The eyeglasses were used to make the fire. “ His specs-use them as burning glasses” (40) Even though the glasses showed to be useful for starting the fire they are not taken care of, and eventually broken and destroyed. This shows how the boys on the island are actually destroying themselves by destroying everything that is useful to them. The glasses are a symbol of hope because they are the only object that can indirectly make the boys on the island visible to the outside world. Ralph holding on to the broken glasses until the very end, symbolizes that even though things were in bad shape, they had hope.


Probably the most important symbol in The Lord of the Flies is the conch. The conch symbolizes authority, democracy, leadership, and power. In the beginning Ralph and Piggy gather all the boys together, when they find themselves alone on the island using the conch. “The conch, we can use this to call the others. Have a meeting they’ll come when they hear us” (16). At the second meeting the boys are drawn to the conch and it is like a magnet to the boys, which draws them to whom ever uses it. “By the time Ralph had finished blowing the conch the platform was crowded ” (32). The conch also shows the first idea of civilization and democracy. One example is when there is disorder because everyone is talking at once. “Conch, that’s what the shell is called. I’ll give the conch to the next person who speaks. He can hold when he is speaking ” (33). Finally the conch is used for is to show how Piggy does so much to help them and does not get credit for it. It was used that way when Piggy was the first one to see the conch and Piggy was the one who knew what it was and instructed Ralph on how to use it. But when all the boys came from the conch’s noise Ralph got credit for it. Ironically when the conch was broken all hopes of restoring order were gone for Ralph.


The last symbol in Lord of the Flies is the mask. Jack and his hunters hid their “inner-selves” using the mask. “ He was saved from shame or self-consciousness behind the mask of his paint and could look at each of them in turn ” (140). This shows that even though Jack and his company were evil they still had an inner sense of self-consciousness. The mask symbolizes that everybody has a second chance and Jack’s attempts to hide his soul.


All in all, William Golding uses these symbols to make the novel more intriguing. He shows the island as a stage of the world portraying that when people fight nothing good comes out as a result. Perhaps he conveyed this message as an opposition to war and hatred that was going on during his times. Maybe when Golding wrote this novel he pictured Jack as the Axis powers, Ralph as the Allies, and Piggy as the Jews. The conch relates to the glasses because ironically when the conch was shattered - by Piggy’s death - the glasses were also broken. The conch and the glasses are a symbol of order and democracy as well as hope. Piggy is also a symbol of wisdom that was often unappreciated. Definitely,