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Rebecca Noall 11W 11G2
What is the significance of the conch throughout the novel?
The conch is an integral symbol in `Lord of the Flies', and unlike most of the symbolism in the novel, it
changes throughout as the events unfold. It plays a significant part both in the plot and the message that
Golding was trying to get across to the reader.
At the start of the novel, the discovery of the conch is vital in bringing the boys together. Piggy's idea that
blowing it will "call the others" also gives the reader an insight into his intelligence. The boys respond to the
sound of the conch, thus bringing some order to the island. The shell's appearance also hints at the effect it
will have the beautiful colours of "deep cream" and "fading pink" bring a sense of calmness and tranquillity.
The conch is also instrumental in Ralph being elected as leader. The boys want "him with the shell!" and "him
with the trumpet-thing" to be chief. Ralph called the boys using the conch, meaning that something had been
done, and the boys now look to him as the obvious leader because of it, despite Jack's apparent superiority.
Ralph is shown to be a democratic leader, and he and the conch are respected by the boys. His idea to "give
the conch to the next person to speak" establishes authority on the island. It is a fair system and shows that
the boys still maintain their civilization.
To Piggy, the conch is essential as it means that he is given the opportunity to speak and voice his opinion
despite his lack of confidence. He obeys it completely even when the other boys begin not to care, as it is
the only chance he has of being heard. Jack is the first to reject the conch, when he says,
"The conch doesn't count on top of the mountain."
The mountain is Jack's domain, and this signifies the beginnings of his dictatorship as he struggles to comply
with the rules of the democracy and easily dismisses the conch. This is demonstrated again later when Jack
breaks into Ralph's camp after which Piggy exclaims
"They didn't take the conch...I thought they wanted the conch."
This shows that Jack really does not care anymore for neither the conch nor democracy, and also illustrates
how reliant Piggy is on the conch and how much it means to him.
There is a constant feud between Ralph and Jack later in the novel as a result of their conflicting leadership
styles. Piggy always sides with Ralph's democracy, resulting in "a brief tussle" with Jack as "the conch moved
to and fro", representing both the power struggle between Ralph and Jack and the battle between
leadership styles as Jack's dictatorship takes on Ralph's democracy. The conch represents democracy, and as
the democracy on the island declines, it is shown through the conch. The vivid and beautiful colours of the
shell at the start fade to the "fragile white conch" which symbolises the loss of power in upholding
democracy, as well as its fragility.
The end of the conch comes just before Piggy's death, when Jack's dictatorship annihilates any opportunity
for democracy. Its dramatic ending also reinforces Golding's message to the reader, not only of the evil
inside all of mankind, but also of the effect it can have on others. The conch "exploded into a thousand white
fragments", reminding the reader of the Second World War, in particular the nuclear bomb attacks that
devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and recognising that we should never have let it happen.