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Meesseman 1

Andrew Meesseman
AP English Lang. & Comp.
2 November 2015
Small yet Powerful
A conch, as ordinary and useless as it may seem, has the power to rule over a group of
boys after their plane is shot down onto an island during the Second World War. Although so
powerful to the boys at the beginning, as time passes, it brings out a side of them that represents
mankinds tendency to revert back to natural behaviors of savagery. William Golding, the author
of the Lord of the Flies novel and a former British Royal Navy officer, brings the conch into the
story to represent the boys attempt at an organized government and society as they were used to
when they lived back at home.
The conch is first used to call upon all of the boys after their plane goes down. It is found
in the water off of the island by Piggy who explains to Ralph how to use it. Piggy, a chubby little
boy with intelligence pouring from his head, knows how to use it. He cannot use it, however,
because he has bad asthma and would not be able to sustain the flow of air required to use the
conch efficiently. Ralph, being one of the oldest and wisest of the group [grasps] the idea and
[hits] the shell with air from his diaphragm [which] immediately [causes] the thing [to sound]
(17). Almost immediately, boys of all ages begin to flow out of the forest because of curiosity
and a sense of panic to be in contact with others. Soon enough, all of the boys are together
having their first assembly. For this, they view the conch as a symbol that unites them and brings
power and order to their newly formed civilization just as it was back at home.

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The conch also plays an important role in the election of the leader of all of the boys.
Ralph is looked up to by many of the other boys since he holds the key to their newly formed
societys existence. The boys exclaim, Him with the shell. Ralph! Ralph! Let him be chief with
the trumpet thing (22). Not only is he chosen because he holds the conch, but also because of he
is handsome which is appealing to many of the younger boys. At this point in time, the conch
represents a symbol of power and order in their society, which the boys would call Parliament.
The conch promotes order to the boys society and represents their government because
of the structure that it provides. Not only does it enforce the rules and guidelines of society, it
enforces who can speak and at what time. At assemblies, where all of the boys gather to discuss
what needs to be done on the island, the conch is held by the speaker. Ralph says that [the boys]
cant have everybody talking at once and therefore (33), whoever holds the conch gets to
speak (33). All of the boys want to speak their feelings, but cannot without the conch. For this,
the quest for the conch can be viewed as politicians struggle for power in society and what they
will do to be heard by the people.
As time passes, many of the boys return to their natural, immature, and naive nature.
They start to care less about the conch and order, and more about having fun and being careless.
This can start to show their gradual descent into savagery. Jack, a competitive boy who is not
very easy on the eye, begins to resent against the conch and Ralph. At one point in the novel,
Piggy attempts to put his feelings forward about the importance of the fire, however, he is being
talked over by many of the boys and tries to quiet them by showing that he has the conch. Jack
objects and says that The conch doesnt count on top of the mountain to Piggy (42), which
shows that Jack is beginning to go against the order of their loosely knitted society. These small,
recurring instances cause many of the boys to lose their respect towards the conch and what it

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symbolizes. The conch is again completely disregarded when Jack says We dont need the
conch anymore. We know who ought to say things (101-102). Jacks comment on the conch
places even less importance on it and shows that their civilized society is slowly burning down
and savagery is setting in.
Although the conchs main purpose is starting to be overlooked, it is still respected by
everyone, including Jack who resents it at every opportunity he gets when it benefits him. Jack
does not like Ralph in a position of power over him and continues threatening the conch and
what it means. Jack finally hits his breaking point and has had enough, calling a vote on whether
or not they want Ralph to continue being the chief of the group. Nobody raises their hand in
favor of Ralph being impeached from his position of authority. Because Jack has been shut
down, he starts to cry and [lays] the conch with great care in the grass at his feet (127). Rather
than breaking what is preventing him from becoming the new chief, he respectfully lays it down
in the grass and runs away. Although nobody votes for him at the assembly, many boys sneak
away in the middle of the night to join Jack. This shows that they do not want to hurt Ralph or go
against the conchs rules.
Following Jack splitting off from the group and taking most of the boys, the conch has
less importance placed on it for everyone except Piggy who is the only one that still truly
believes in the conchs values and purpose. This is shown when he tells Ralph to Blow the
conch, [and to] blow as loud as [he] can to call an assembly after only few remain in their group
(169). Ralph blows the conch, only because Piggys glasses were recently stolen and a plan
needs to be hatched to get them back. Ralph realizes the importance of Piggys glasses for the
fire, but does not realize that the group has no intelligence with a blind Piggy. When Ralph blows
into the conch, The forests [re-echo]; and birds [lift], crying out of the treetops, as on the first

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morning ages ago. Both ways the beach [is] deserted (170). The conch is powerless over the rest
of the boys in Jacks tribe who have resorted to savagery under Jacks rule. Only four members
show up to the assembly to plan the heist of Piggys glasses.
When the boys are ready, they go on a daring march into no mans land to confront the
almighty Jack and his tribe. Their plan is soiled when Piggy is killed by Roger who slings a
boulder over a cliff onto him. Piggy is not the only thing that is pulverized because The conch
[explodes] into a thousand white fragments and [ceases] to exist as well (181). Any order that
was ever established is now gone and the boys savage tendencies and inner evil have completely
overthrown any form of government that they had ever established. The new order, after the
conch is destroyed, is the pig head, or the Lord of the Flies, which represents the boys inner
beast and final descent into savagery.
The conch is used by Golding to show the boys attempt at government throughout the
book and that as time passes, their natural behaviors begin to tear apart what they had established
so early on in the book. The conch begins as a symbol of power, strength, and authority for the
boys, but ends up being the cause of their secession from each other as time goes on. By using
the conch as an allegorical piece in the story to symbolize government and how man will
descend into savagery as time goes on, Golding shows his true beliefs about society and what he
thinks will eventually happen. Although so simple in its looks, the conch has the power to bring
the boys together and rip them apart at the same time.