Significance Of The Conch In Lord Of The Flies

893 words - 4 pages

"A conch he called it. He used to blow it and his mum would come. It's ever so valuable" – Piggy, Lord of the Flies. The conch is a sea creature, its shell is revered in many cultures such as Hinduism and Buddhism for its beauty and the sound it makes. The conch is also that shell in Lord of the Flies which is blown into to gather the boys. The author, William Golding, uses the conch to show that democracy will succumb to rule by force in the face of serious trouble or need. In the book, it is a symbol of democratic power but it is not without its enemies who eventually overrule it.

The conch is a symbol of democratic power at the beginning of the story. First, it is used to gather the boys. Ralph blows the conch to assemble them (Golding 12). Gathering the people so that they can share their views, debate and vote is essential to a functioning democracy. As a result, the conch is fulfilling this prerequisite. In addition, it used to grant speaking privileges at meetings. Ralph explains this at the first meeting "I'll give the conch to the next person to speak. […] And he won't be interrupted."(31) Therefore the conch achieves another prerequisite of democracy which is to give everyone the chance to voice their opinions and concerns. But what is democracy without the power to back it? The conch is a symbol of power for the elected leader, Ralph. When the boys vote for the leader, one of them votes by saying "Him with the shell"(19). Thus, it is the conch which symbolises power to the boys; they vote for it and its holder. In short, by gathering the people, giving them the right to speak and symbolising power; the conch represents democracy. However, it does have enemies.

Jack, his tribe and his tools, such as rocks, are symbols of rule by force. First of all, Jack opposes the power of the conch and therefore democracy. This is best shown when Ralph says "I'll blow the conch […] and call an assembly", Jack responds "We shan't hear it."(167) As a result, we can see that Jack is an enemy of democracy, as any authoritarian ruler would be. Moreover, Jack uses torture to make people do his bidding. We see this when he tortures Sam with a spear, "'What do you mean by not joining my tribe?' The prodding became rhythmic. Sam yelled."(202) We can therefore see that Jack uses pain and fear to rule, another...

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