The Power Of The Conch Essay, Research Paper
“The Power of the Conch”
William Golding uses many objects as symbols throughout the novel “Lord of the Flies”. The Conch is a symbol for all the values and morals bread into civilized man. Amazed by the appearance and ability of the conch they gave it a kind of supreme power letting it structure their lives. They pass the conch to one another to speak, therefore it keeps order among them. The conch acted as an equalizer because anyone who had it was given the right to express themselves.
The children were mesmerized by the power the conch gives its possessor. When the first meeting is called and they all decide to have a chief Ralph is voted for, mostly because he has the conch. Their voting cries were, “Him with the shell”, “Ralph, Ralph”, and “Let him be chief with the trumpet thing.”(22) The children had chosen a person they had known for less than a day, not because he showed great leadership skills but because he possessed the conch. This is just one example of the conch giving a power to its’ carrier. Another happens at dusk when all the kids are having a feast after jack kills the first pig and Ralph decides to call an assembly. “He faced the place of assembly and put the conch to his lips. The others were waiting for this and came straight away.” (passage from p.78). Even when it is near dark and the children are in the middle of having a party the power of the conch causes them to drop what their doing and sit upon the platform. These British children were brought up under a monarchy and were raised to obey the power of the king. Although there is nobody to punish them for disobeying the authority of the conch they obey because civilized people are raised to want some kind of structure.
The conch gave them a civilized order much like a school house. During meetings the kids would all wait their turn to speak and wouldn’t talk unless they had the conch. It was as though they had their mothers watching over them, telling them to be polite and that interrupting was rude. “I got the conch! Just you listen! The first thing we ought to have made was shelters down there by the beach…”(45) Here the conch enforces order, for if Piggy didn’t have the conch he would have been interrupted in the middle of his thought. During assemblies the conch was used to assign order in conversations as well as to focus the group. “Clamor rose at once. Everyone had built the shelters. Ralph had to wave the conch once more.”(passage from p.80) In this example Ralph uses the conch to remind the children of their manners. The conch helps them remember that it is rude to interrupt somebody while their speaking. Playing somewhat of the role of a mother, the conch reminds them of their manners and decorum.
The conch is used to spread equality through out their little community. Any member of their society had a right to say whatever was on their mind while holding the conch. Whether it be Ralph, Jack, Simon, Piggy, or even a “littl’un” it made no difference because while holding the conch they all got the same amount of attention. “Simon was close to him, laying hands on the conch. Simon felt a perilous necessity to speak; but to speak in an assembly was a terrible thing to him.”(passage from p.89) Here Simon’s fear of speaking publically is overpowered by the conch and he shares his thoughts with the group. His thoughts are listened to as though they were equally important as anyone else’s. Again Simon takes the conch and speaks. The people do not listen until Ralph brings to their attention that Simon has the conch. “Hear him! He’s got the conch!”(89) The value of equality is bread through civilized man.
In this primitively formed society of children the conch is used to represent the respect, order, structure, and equality which civilization has embedded in their minds. Golding’s theme which is as follows: “The theme is an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature”. The conch shell represents the ideal values of a civilized man. These ideal values can be corrupted by man’s natural instinct of self-preservation. Man will do what is ultimately best for his own interests. Golding uses the conch to open our eyes as the reader to the many flaws and defects in our own thoughts and philosophies. Golding ultimately gets his message across through the shattering of the conch shell, because that is when total anarchy breaks out.