William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is a post Second World War novel that follows a group of boys stranded on an island separated from civilization. The novel has left its mark on pop culture and inspired many modern authors due to its gruesome depictions of human actions and its use of specific motif such as the conch. However, while the conch stands for stability and order, it is never able to succeed in truly providing this for the boys. The failure of the conch directly reflects the faults in modern day democracy. Throughout the book, the boys’ use of the conch, and its development as a symbol of order, equality, and democracy, suggest that even within the most stable societies, the evil of man will prevail.Early in the novel, Golding shows how the boys use the conch to recreate the civilization they’ve been separated from. The sound of the conch, brings all of the stranded boys together.
Attempting to mimic democracy, the boys decide that anyone who has the conch is respected and all should respect that person. When the boys choose their leader, it’s clear that Ralph has leadership qualities: he is tall, attractive, charismatic. However, what is important is that Ralph has the conch, the “most obscure yet most powerful” (Golding 22) object on the island. In addition to bringing the boys together, this “powerful” object is “ever so valuable” (15), according to Piggy, because it is rare in England. Here, Golding uses the conch to comment on democracy and what makes someone a electable candidate. As the story develops, the conch is used to discriminate rather than unify. The boys don’t allow Piggy, who is obese, asthmatic and nearsighted, to exercise the free speech that the conch guarantees. Even his intelligence and kindness towards others don’t make up for his disabilities and his flaws in the eyes of the boys.
Jack changes the rules when he says, “The conch doesn’t count on top of the mountain…so you shut up” (42), because he doesn’t think that fat Piggy’s opinions matter. In fact Piggy not only teaches Ralph how to blow the conch but originally spots it in the water and “was with Ralph before anyone else was” (24), making him valuable . Piggy is the kind of person that history books forget, while those who are considered “normal” take the credit for their actions. Similar to policies in the real world, the rules are followed and leaders are respected, except when we, as the public don’t personally like the person, regardless of their qualifications.
The depiction of Piggy in the novel is Golding commenting how a civilized society discriminates against those who are different.Towards the end of the novel, the power the conch has over the boys weakens. Ralph still holds onto the ideas that the conch first represents and states that “If I blow the conch and they don’t come back; then we’ve had it” (92) believing that without the structure the conch provides, man becomes primitive.
Jack constantly acts as a foil to Ralph and moves forward with his plans to take power and to destroy his opponent. Jack’s disregard for the conch severs the last link to their previous order. After Piggy’s death and the conch’s destruction “Jack ran forward stooping. “I’m chief!'”(181). Already provided with power in the crumbling society, Jack only craved the title of leader. Originally it seemed the only thing that would prevent Jack being leader was democracy. However, Jack was already a leader.
The conch’s destruction provided him the title since what caused Ralph to be elected was gone. Jack’s power stemmed from harnessing the littluns fear of the beasty, while brutality kept everyone in place. Golding is showing that evil and savagery don’t start when structure ends, the two overlap and a complement each other.