Symbolism in Lord of The Flies

May 28, 2020 by Essay Writer

What message does Golding attempt to convey through symbolism in Lord of The Flies?

In the book ‘Lord of the Flies’ (LOTF) William Golding tries to convey strong messages through a story of mankind in its purest form. He uses symbols to show

* the disintegration of order, leadership and civilisation

* the primary disregard for intelligence and childish innocence

* the raw presence of savagery, power-hunger and the self gratification in mankind

Due to the above themes being those of a very philosophical nature Golding uses simple symbols to represent these actions and relationships which make it easier to understand the basic points he is trying to get at.

In LOTF Golding uses a mixture of people and objects to represent these various concepts. In essence this novel represents the struggle between good and evil, civilisation and savagery etc. I will now discuss the various symbols Golding uses and what concepts they represent.

Piggy and his Glasses

Piggy is the stands for intelligence, “Piggy for all his ludicrous body, had brains”, and the fact that intelligence, logic and rational play an important part in society.

Although mocked and told “Fatty/You can’t come” his glasses are the object on which the group’s rescue lies. His glasses are used to start a fire and this ‘luxury’ is taken for granted, however as homesickness overrules the boys the need for rescue overcomes even the need for food and it is only later on that Jack recognises the importance of Piggy’s Glasses. Jack steals the glasses and as the oldest boy on the island and leader of the rebel camp he realises the significance of intelligence and innovation to create hope and gain the trust of the boys. However, unlike Ralph and Piggy he uses this power for his own good. Jack realises that strength, power and popularity may not be able to compete in terms of usefulness with intelligence but he resorts to using these attributes to get the intelligence.

The Island

The island I think that the island is in constant change along with the boys. at first the island represents a fun paradise as many of the boys had associated with such as Coral Island. They had read the books and in many ways had tried to recreate these stories in their time on the island. The island is often described as a living thing and then becomes the unknown to the fact that it may not be adequate protection from the Beast. The island then becomes a place in which anything goes the savage tendencies are allowed there and the boys can forget their values. Often times the island is used as an excuse for this savagery as but for this circumstance the boys would not have to resort to this behaviour.

The Conch

The conch is the symbol of democracy and is first used to call everyone together for a meeting, another example of civilisation. The conch gives the holder the right of free speech and the holder can have his point heard in relative freedom. As the island sways towards savagery the conch starts to lose its power and influence over the boys and Ralph fears that if he blows it that it will not evoke the slightest of responses. This prophecy becomes reality as the other boys ignore Ralph and throw stones at him when he attempts to blow the conch in Jack’s camp. In fact, Jack says that “the conch doesn’t matter on [his] side of the island.” This shows Jacks blatant disregard for democracy an open agenda for a dictatorship with himself at the head.

The murder of Piggy also crushes the conch shell, showing the end of civilization and democracy on the island. There is a link between the Conch and Piggy. Earlier in the book he claimed “It’s ever so valuable” but due to his medical restrictions he is unable to use it. His intelligence and knowledge give Ralph the power of the conch. If Piggy had not had these restrictions perhaps the story could have been completely different. Although payed little attention to on the island this is another example of intelligence being key to any society. This being said Golding throughout this novel tries to show us that a mixture of useful skills is needed in any one civilisation. In this instance in spite of Ralph’s leadership ability, charm and good looks without Piggy’s he may not have even got a look in.

The Beast/The Parachute Man

It is first important to note that there is no beast. The ‘Beast’ is simply just a figure of the boy’s imagination, a nightmare. However, as Simon point out, when he says “What I mean…Maybe it’s only us.” The Beast is each boy’s individual fear. It encapsulates the fears of the boys concerned including the fact that they are stranded on a desert island with no real hope of getting rescues except for an inefficient fire which they can’t even control. As the novel goes on the need to attach this fear to physical object becomes greater. Singling all this fear into one place makes it easier to ignore, live with and the leaders on the island find it easier to control this fear.

The do this by making sacrifices to the beast, pretending it’s not even there and even ‘killing’ it. If as some of the boys suspect and various titles suggest the Beast is unpreventable e.g. from air or water then the boys would probably die of worry. I also notice that Golding seems to make the importance of the Beast greater the more savage-like the boys become. The Parachute man is simply a physical object to attach the fear to. However Golding writes the story so that the fear of the parachute man is foolish because he is already dead.


The function of the fire is to alert passing ships of the boy’s existence and it is key to their chances of rescue. However as the boys become more savage-like the fires main function becomes that of a cooking fire. When boys act as civilised people they have a greater desire to join the world from which they came they do their best to keep the fire going. But when the boys become contented with fun times and feasts the rescue fire becomes a secondary issue. The fire not only has the power to rescue but also to destroy as the boys find out when they set the island alight.

Face Paint

The face point represents two things. Firstly the uniformity of a savage life under the rule of Jack and secondly a ‘mask’ to hide behind. Due to the change in atmosphere to that of savagery and uncivilisation the boys hide from the values they know they should keep by putting on the masks. It would seem that when the boys put on the masks they become different people. For example Jack “He [Jack] began to dance and his laughter became a bloodthirsty snarling.” Here we see the different Jack we also see that when Jack becomes the Chief and wears he is able to make decisions such as torture seemingly without remorse.

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