Monday, June 29, 2009

Symbolism Essay

Lord of the Flies is a complex novel which can be seen as an allegory: a piece of writing in which the apparent meaning of the characters and events is used to symbolize a deeper meaning- moral, spiritual, political or social. Golding uses symbolism throughout his novel to emphasize the fact that mankind possesses two different personalities, one civilized and the other savage. Golding uses these objects and characters to form the theme of his novel and to convey different aspects of society to his readers.

In the beginning of the novel, the conch shell found by Ralph and Piggy represented order, civilization, and free speech. Piggy instructed Ralph to blow the conch shell “We can use this to call the others” (Golding 16). After calling the others, they all meet and decide to vote for a chief. “Let’s have a vote” (22). It is here that the conch symbolizes order and democracy. The
boys saw Ralph as a figure of authority and leadership based solely on the conch shell. “Let him
be chief with the trumpet thing” (24). Ralph used the conch as a means of communicating with the others. If someone had something to say, he would hand the conch to them. “ ‘I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak.’ ‘He can hold it when he’s speaking.’ ‘And he won’t be interrupted’ ”(36).

Piggy and his glasses also symbolized civilization and technology. He was Ralph’s adviser, was always thinking logically, and helped Ralph make smart decisions. It was Piggy who found the conch and suggested to Ralph to blow it to call the others. His glasses, used as a magnifying glass, played an important role in starting the signal fire. This fire was to be kept burning in hopes that ships would see it and rescue them. It was the fire of hope. When the fire went out, the importance of his glasses was expressed by Ralph who shouted “if the fire is out, we’ll need them” (73).

The signal fire was another form of symbolism. It was the fire which would hopefully aid in the rescue of the boys and take them back to their homes. It was the responsibility of Jack’s hunters to keep the fire going, but they became less and less interested. They placed more emphasis on hunting. They began to disobey Ralph’s orders. The importance of the fire was expressed by Ralph in saying “You let the fire go out” (69). Jack’s response was “we had to have them in the hunt” (76). This was the first time in which Ralph’s leadership was tested and the beginning of his decline. He was losing his influence among the others.

Jack, who becomes the main adversary of Ralph, was a symbol of dictatorship and savagery. He was arrogant and self-righteous. He became offended by not being elected as chief and continually challenged Ralph. “I ought to be chief...because I’m chapter chorister and head boy” (22). The relationship of Ralph and Jack deteriorated throughout the book, representing the deterioration of a democratic society into a savage one. It was when Jack separated from the others that his followers began to paint their faces and become savages. Golding states, “This was a savage whose image refused to blend with that ancient picture of a boy in shorts and shirt”(192). These painted faces helped them justify their actions. This is best illustrated with the murder of Simon.

Golding names the pig’s head that Jack puts on a stick as a sacrifice for the beast, “Lord of the Flies” (138). This becomes a symbol of savagery and the driving force of Jack’s tribe. As the novel progresses, the sequence of killing tracks the children from being innocent to that of being savage. Simon dies in a violent act committed by a group of Jack’s tribe (152-153) and Piggy is killed by Roger deliberately (180-181).

Throughout his novel, Lord of the Flies, Golding utilized objects and characters to illustrate his main theme that without rules and laws, any society will degenerate into a savage one. He stresses the importance of the characters and how they respond to the different situations in the novel. It shows the struggle between civilization and the urge to become primitive. In the beginning, Ralph, the conch, Piggy’s glasses, and the signal fire were all signs of democracy. As Jack became more powerful, the conch was eventually smashed and the signal fire went out. The objects such as the pig’s head, painted faces, and finally the destructive fire all representing savagery and anarchy became increasingly more important. At the end of the novel, Golding sums up his feelings toward people. He believes that evil is in each of us and that society with its rules and laws holds everyone together, preventing evil from being exposed.

Also paramount to Golding’s symbolism is the two basic conceptions of power which slowly emerged on the island. Simon, Ralph, and Piggy believed that power should be used for the good of all on the island. A democratic group, each having the same rights as the other. Roger and Jack believed that those who hold it should use it to gratify their own desires and act on impulses. A group associated with savagery.

Through symbolism, Golding did an excellent job in expressing his views about man and society. At first, the book was an adventure, but through the use of symbolism , it became more of a in-depth writing on how people react when being removed from their environment.

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