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Symbols In Lord Of The Flies Essay Writing

Lord of the Flies Symbolism Essay

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Lord of the Flies Essay Analyse how symbols are used to develop an idea in a text you have studied. In the novel Lord of the Flies written by William Golding, an idea that is developed throughout the novel is civilisation versus savagery. This is shown through the symbolism of the conch, the fire and Piggy’s glasses. This use of symbolism helps the reader to understand the inherent evil in mankind and the balance between civilisation and the society we live in now versus the inner savagery that is surfacing in the boys during the book.

One of the symbols Golding uses to explore and develop the theme of civilisation versus savagery is the conch. The conch is first used on the island when blown by Ralph to gather and signal any other boys that survived the plane crash on the island. This here is the first sign of civilisation as once the conch is blown and boys begin to appear, they make rules and regulations and elect a chief. This is a sign of democracy which we recognise in society today. Golding uses the conch as a symbol for civilisation throughout the novel and is associated with law and order.

This is shown to the reader when Piggy says “I have the conch, so I have the power to speak! ” the conch’s power works for a short period of time until the authority that is associated with the conch slips away and is overpowered by the savagery and inherent evil that has been hidden away in mankind erupting out of the boys. When the conch is destroyed, civilisation is completely shattered. As the reader we realise then that the aim of rescue is lost and replaced with the need to hunt and kill.

This relates back to society today as we look at countries that have no authoritive figure to look up to or abide by and we see the chaos and havoc amongst the people and their morals lost. The second symbol Golding uses to develop the theme is the fire. The fire represents civilisation and the hope of being rescued. It also represents order and safety. The fire is first used as a signal fire in the hope of a plane or nearby boat seeing the smoke from the fire and coming to rescue the boys. Because of the team work it takes to keep the fire going, it makes us realise the teamwork and unity of the boys at the beginning of the novel.

However, as the fire subsequently extinguishes, so does the hope and aim of being rescued. The fire turns into a destructive force that simultaneously destroys the island and kills Simon. The fire then begins to be used as a heat source to cook the meat that the boys butchered. Golding uses the fire to show us the gradual shift that takes place on the island as savagery and the inherent evil begins to overcome the need for civilisation. The third symbol Golding uses to develop the theme of civilisation versus savagery is Piggy’s glasses.

Throughout the novel Piggy is the character that is the voice of reason and is ridiculed by others. He is the only one who remains completely sane and represents civilisation, wisdom and hope for society. Golding uses Piggy’s glasses as the only thing that can light the fire as it demonstrates to us the change on the island. At first Piggy’s glasses are used to light the signal fire so that there is hope of rescue but as the novel progresses and Piggy’s glasses get broken and stolen we see a shift from positive to negative and the inherent evil that is present in the boys.

The broken glasses show us the loss of humanity on the island and the complete disappearance of civilisation. As the reader we are shown the savagery overcoming civilisation when the glasses get stolen as they represent society and modern day – without them Piggy is blind. When jack wears them around his waist, they are a trophy rather than an essential need. In conclusion, the symbols of the conch, the fire and Piggy’s glasses help develop the theme of civilisation versus savagery. The use of symbolism helps the reader to understand the inherent evil in mankind and the balance between civilisation versus savagery.

Author: Wallace Hartsell

in Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies Symbolism Essay

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Choose a novel in which an important theme is explored. Explain how the author develops this theme throughout the novel.

            The Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a novel in which the theme of savagery versus civilisation is explored. Some British boys are stranded on an isolated island at the time of an imaginary nuclear war. On the island we see conflict between two main characters, Jack and Ralph, who respectively represent civilisation and savagery. This has an effect on the rest of the boys throughout the novel as they delve further and further into savagery.

             The theme of savagery versus civilisation is first introduced to us through the symbol of the conch shell which we associate with Ralph as he is the person who first uses it and becomes the elected leader of the boys. This symbolises authority amongst the boys. At the first assembly Ralph says “I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak…he won’t be interrupted”. This suggests civilisation as Ralph is allowing each boy to have an equal say and opinion. If they have the conch, no matter who they are or what age they are they will be given the chance to speak and will be listened to by the rest of the boys. The boys have created the island to be a democratic place which shows a civilised side to them as they try to mimic the homes they have just left.

             Contrasting with the symbol of the conch is the symbol of the beast which comes to be associated with Jack as by the end of the novel he is almost devil worshipping it. The beast begins as a  “snake thing” but by the end of the novel it has become “the Lord of the Flies”. The first quote shows us that the beast is clearly evil. Western society considers snakes to be bad omens because it was a snake that led Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge. However at this stage of the novel the beast is quite insubstantial as it is only a “thing”. As the boys fear of the beast grows so to does the beast itself until it has manifested into the devil – the ultimate and most powerful evil. He has a strong status as a Lord although it is over something pretty disgusting – the flies. The boys belief in the beast leads them to behave more like savages as they act out from their fear and they begin to loose hold of the rules, led by Jack, thus demonstrating the theme of savagery.

             One of ways Golding shows conflict between savagery and civilisation is when Jack and some of the other boys are killing the first pig. Jack chants “kill the pig, cut her throat, spill the blood”. This suggests savagery as the boys are being violent and aggressive when killing the pig and they don’t care about it. This is particularly clear through Golding’s word choice. Jack talks about cutting the pig’s throat which makes it sound like a savage action and spilling her blood which reinforces the lack of care and feeling shown towards the pug’s carcass. This shows that the boys are no longer feeling guilty about what they have done thus showing them becoming savages. 

             We can see the conflict between savagery and civilisation developing further when Piggy’s glasses are broken. We are told “Piggy cried out in terror ‘my specs!” This shows us that the boys savage natures are beginning to overule their more civilised sides. At the start of the book Jack would never have dared touch Piggy, but here he actually snaps and goes for Piggy who he despises. We can tell that Piggy is really scared as Golding chooses the words “cried” and “terror” to describe the scene. Piggy sounds like he is hurting and is genuinely terrified about what Jack might do to him and the loss of his sight. Piggy’s glasses have also come to represent intelligence on the island, with them breaking we see that the pathway to savagery is now completely open for the boys. This is the first true piece of violence between the two factions on the island and it will result in nearly all the boys becoming savages.

             A final way in which we see the theme of savagery versus civilisation being demonstrated is when Ralph sticks up for Piggy after he is attacked by Jack. Ralph says “that was a dirty trick”. This shows that Ralph is really angry at Jack for what he said and did to Piggy. He is still attempting to impose himself as leader here as he says this in an aggressive and assertive tone. This suggests there is still some glimmers of civilisation on the island at this point as there is still someone with a sense of moral goodness ready to fight for justice.

             In conclusion The Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a novel in which the theme of savagery versus civilisation is shown. Ralph represents civilisation as he wants to enforce rules and let everyone have an equal say. Whereas Jack who represents savagery as he rules over the boys and he is not interested in what they have to say. Through the boys actions Golding shows us that we need rules and to consciously impose them to make sure society functions properly.

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