There are many elements determining how people conduct themselves in their everyday lives. From the day we are born, we are influenced simply by how those around us act - parents, teachers, peers alike. We are given boundaries and are soon restrained if we push them too much. As children our caregivers teach us how to behave; as adults laws and order keep us civilised.
‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding describes the disintegration of civilisation without the influence of society and law.
Set in the midst of World War Two, the novel concerns a group of young boys being evacuated. However, when the plane transporting them crashes onto a deserted tropical island, the boys are forced to fend for themselves, without adult supervision.
It is only by placing an individual outwith their comfort zone that we can see how differently each of us will react. This becomes increasingly clear - if not slightly embellished - as the novel progresses, with a key theme being civilisation versus savagery.
Throughout the novel Golding exploits the use of symbolism in order to establish this theme.
Among the most prominent symbols in Lord of the Flies is undoubtedly the conch shell, in all its natural beauty. The conch symbolises certain attributes of mankind, such as civilisation, democracy and order. As the novel progresses this becomes clear.
The conch shell is one of the earliest symbols introduced into the novel. It is discovered by Ralph and Piggy on the beach after separated by the plane crash. It is first blown on by Ralph to beckon any other survivors of the crash, and is soon used frequently to call meetings between the boys. Here the conch symbolises unity, as it is the object that first brings the boys together, and society, as this allows them to discuss rules and create a structured, disciplined group.
It is now used somewhat like the ‘talking stick’, an instrument commonly used by tribes, often in the Northwest Coast of North America. The conch shell (in theory, not always in practice) gets passed from boy to boy, allowing only the person holding the shell to speak. At this stage in the novel it becomes evident that the conch is not only used by Golding as a symbol, but also by the boys as a more literal item of democratic power.
However, as the boys descend into savagery, the shell increasingly starts to lose its power and authority over them. This development, although less palpable, starts very early on. The first significant indication of the conch’s influence fading is when Jack decides that Piggy should “shut up” as “the conch doesn’t count on top of the mountain”. From then on the boys start making exceptions for the conch, until the conch is rendered useless.
Nonetheless, Ralph remains steadfast and loyal to the conch - and, effectively, civilisation. Desperately he attempts to blow the conch in Jack’s ‘territory’, resulting in stones being flung at him.
Nearing the end of the novel the conch shell gets crushed by the boulder used by...