Lord of the Flies: Symbolism

Wendy Bede and Emily Hoppie

Engagement activity

Over View

The definition of symbolism is the use of symbols to represent ideas or qualities. Often times in literature, authors use concrete objects to symbolize deeper meanings. Throughout the novel "Lord of the Flies" there are many examples of smbolism including the conch shell which symbolizes the themes of order and civility, piggy's glasses which symbolize the theme of intellect and reason, and the signal fire, which represented the boys' desire to return to civilization.


Conch quote: I've got the conch

Piggy's glasses: I can’t see no more and I got to get my glasses back. Awful things has been done on this island.

Fire quote: The fire is the most important thing on the island. How can we ever be rescued except by luck, if we don’t keep a fire going?

Analysis of quotes:


Towards the beginning of the boys' shipwreck they agree to make it a priority to do everything in their power to get rescued, and in the meantime, have a little fun. This includes the idea to build the fire and implicate its excessive smoke as a signal for passing ships or planes. However as the book carries on their focus on having fun seems to outweigh their focus on the fire. For example, jack lets the fire go out when he recruits all the boys for their hunting expedition, showing at this point that he didn't care about getting rescued nearly as much as he did about having fun and hunting. Because of this we see that the fire symbolizes a barometer, measuring the boy's desire to be rescued, the more they care about the fire the more they would like to be rescued and vice versa. When Ralph says "The fire is the most important thing on the island. How can we ever be rescued except by luck, if we don’t keep a fire going?" he is trying to get the boys to see that they need a fire to be rescued, using the symbol of fire to gage the boys desire to be rescued.

The conch Shell:

At the beginning of the novel, the boys impose a "rule of the conch" on themselves, deciding that no one can speak unless he's holding the conch. This represents the themes of law and order and shows that the boys understand that in order to maintain decency on the island they need to have rules to govern themselves. They are constantly saying "I've got the conch" to get the other boys to listen to them. As time goes on people start to disrespect the conch and order and civility begins to disintegrate. The final straw is when roger breaks the conch. Any particle of civility that had remained up until this point is shattered along with the conch, showing that the conch and laws go hand in hand, making it a symbol for civility and order.

Piggy's Glasses:

Piggy's glasses are a symbol of advancement, innovation, and discovery. Piggy is the one in the group who comes up with most of the ideas, and they rely on both him and the glasses to stay alive and keep the fire going. This shows that he boys, and society in general rely on science and innovation to stay alive. Once piggy's glasses are stolen, he can't see and is useless. This represents the hunger for knowledge and shows that people will go to great lengths to steal information and scientific innovation. Once the glasses break, so does a connection to civilization. In the quote, Piggy knows that he needs to get his glasses back because without being able to see, he knows he is useless. When he says "awful things has been done on this island" he knows that he might be the next causality without his glasses. Towards the end of the book, the glasses change in their symbolic meaning and no longer mean advancement and discovery, instead the broken, misused glasses symbolize how far the boys have come from actual civility.


In conclusion, we'd like to recap everything we've been over. The definition of symbolism says that it is the use of symbols to represent ideas or qualities. We use it to show deep meaning through everyday objects of people. The fire, conch, and piggy's glasses are all examples of symbolism showing the boys desire to return home, law and order, and scientific discovery.

Discussion Questions:

1. How do you think Piggy was effected when his glasses broke?

2. What importance did the conch shell serve for the the littleuns and how does it relate to our society now?

3. If you were in the boys shoes, would you see the importance of keeping the fire lit so you could be rescued or would you give in to what the other boys are doing and loose sight of your goal?