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Symbolism in Lord of the Flies

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: Sarah Malburg • updated: 12/10/2012

Understanding symbolism in Lord of the Flies by William Golding deepens one's appreciation of the novel. Make your teacher think you are really smart by with this top 10 list.

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    A must read for every student, the Lord of the Flies has classic elements to represent what is happening at a deeper level in the book.

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    The Top 10 Symbols

    conch 

    1) The Conch - Ralph and Piggy find the conch shortly after landing on the island. It soon becomes the symbol of authority and law and order. The conch is used to call assemblies and only the person holding the conch could speak at the meetings.

    Ralph and especially Piggy respected the symbol of the conch until it is smashed to bits by Roger, one of Jack's followers. The destruction of the conch symbolizes the destruction of what little civilization the boys possessed.

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    2) Piggy's Glasses - The glasses symbolized the ability to see and understand things clearly. Piggy is the only boy, besides Jack, who really sees how things should be done. The cracking of the first lens symbolizes the boys losing sight of what they need to do. The glasses are also important in so much as they are needed to start the fire.

    3) The Signal Fire - The signal fire symbolizes the boys connection to civilization. The fire, initially, is important in the novel. As the boys grow more savage, the fire becomes less important to them. Jack and the hunters let the fire go out in order to hunt. Ralph's effort to keep the fire going are consistent but unsuccessful, in the same way his efforts to restore order are unsuccessful.

    Golding uses the signal fire to also symbolize hope, something which Jack destroys as the novel progresses. At times the signal fire rages out of control, symbolic of the boys themselves.

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    pig 

    4) The Beast - The beast represents the inner savagery of the boys and all mankind. The boys personify it by calling it a giant snake and mistaking a dead parachutist for it. Simon is the only boy who understands that they are all beasts inside.

    5) The Lord of the Flies - This is the pig's head that Jack impales on a wooden stake in sacrifice to the beast. In one chapter Simon believes the Lord of the Flies to speak to him explaining the nature of evil. The Lord of the Flies is both a physical representation of "the beast", as well as a symbol for Satan himself. "Lord of the Flies" is a literal translation from Hebrew and means Beelzebub.

    6) The Dead Parachutist - Piggy looks for a sign from the adult world. He gets it the very same night. Miles above the island, a plane is shot down. A dead man floats onto the island and becomes lodged in rocks and trees. The dead parachutist symbolizes the adult world and its inability to maintain peace. Piggy's desire to learn civilized behavior from adults goes unfulfilled. The dead man also becomes the beast.

    7) The Plane Crash - The plane crash symbolizes the breakdown of modern society. The boys leave England to get away from the war and are shot down by the enemy.

    8) The Scar - The scar left by the plane crash, symbolizes the damaging encroachment of humans in paradise. The vivid imagery that Golding uses to describe how the scar smashes into the jungle illustrates the affect humans have on the earth and how devastating man can be.

    9) The Island - The island symbolizes the Garden of Eden before the arrival of the boys. After the boys arrive it becomes corrupted and destroyed.

    10) The Boys - The boys also stand as symbols: Simon represents goodness; Ralph and Piggy symbolize law and order; Jack and Roger stand for evil; The big kids represent the ruling classes; and the littluns symbolize common folk.