Symbolism in Lord of the Flies

Both The Spawning Grounds and Lord of the Flies incorporate symbolism to signify ideas and qualities, giving objects, or different forms of symbolism, a deeper meaning, a more significant implication.  

In Lord of the Flies, even the characters represent certain ideas.

Ralph, from the 1990 film adaption of Lord of the Flies

Throughout the novel, Ralph’s character represents order, leadership, and civilization. He establishes structure in the midst of chaos – he steps up to bring organization to the group when the lack of adults sets in a feeling of liberty that quickly turned into a dysfunctional craze.  

Piggy aka Specs, from the 1990 film adaptation of Lord of the Flies

Piggy demonstrates logic and sensibility. His actions and ideas are thought out, he symbolizes scientific and intellectual aspects of civilization. His knowledge and ingenuity have been essential to the group’s survival. Ironically, the very thing that the other kids made fun of Piggy for was the same thing that served them most useful – his glasses. Piggy and Ralph’s friendship may symbolize how in this society, order and logic go hand-in-hand to contrast savagery.  

Jack, from the 1990 film adaptation of Lord of the Flies

Jack rises to power as the group begins to question Ralph’s approach. Jack exploits part of the groups desire to take advantage of the situation – the lack of adults, and to indulge in their primitive ways. He’s driven by a thirst for power and control. Jack represents uncontrolled savagery and the desire for power.

From left to right, Ralph, Piggy, Jack
The conch

The conch shell is a powerful symbol of civilization and order in the novel. The shell essentially governs the boys’ meetings. When it breaks, it goes to show the collapse of Ralph’s authority.  

Symbolism adds great value to literature and film by expressing what needs not to be said but rather shown, creating a more impactful experience. Lord of the Flies is one of my favourite books because of its depth created by the various forms of symbolism.

Can you think of any other symbols in Lord of the Flies?

4 réflexions au sujet de “Symbolism in Lord of the Flies”

  1. i have one! Simon, his the introspective character in the novel. Simon represents the spiritual side of human nature. Like Piggy, Simon is an outcast and the other boys think of him as odd and perhaps insane. It is Simon who finds the beast. The Book was very exciting and plenty of drama.

  2. Hi Aimée,

    I find that your choice of subject fits the question perfectly. As we’ve studied last year, symbolism in Lord of the Flies is omnipresent. Almost everything we encounter – including Ralph, Piggy, Jack, the conch, and the pig head – has symbolic value in this novel. In your opinion, among the different values the boys embody, which is most essential or useful in the setting we’re presented (the island)? Do you believe the implementation of such drastic views would have varying degrees of success in another setting (such as modern civilisation)?

    Cathlin

    1. Hey Cat! Great question, it’s really quite an interesting thing to think about. I believe that Ralph holds incredible symbolic value that can be paralleled to our modern civilization as he’s a pillar for structure and well… civilization. Not to be repetitive but those are the exact reasons why I believe that he is the most essential character. Once he lost his control and importance to part of the group (Jack and etc.), they fell into chaos and what was more alarming is that it was a pleasurable chaos. Although Jack and them saw Ralph as an obstacle, obstructing them in their indulgence of freedom and liberation of the world they knew their whole lives, for others, Ralph represented safety, reason and sanity. I believe that Jack was an equally vital character as he opposed so strongly Ralph’s ideals, demonstrating the contrast between different groups’ values. Obviously those two characters were complete and utter antipodes showing the extremes. But with less drastic, varying extremities, I do think that this dichotomy can be seen in our modern civilisation through politics, lifestyles, etc.

  3. Lord of the flies is and always will be a wonderful story and a classic to me. I did notice that you mentioned how Ralph repress some semblance of leadership and order to the rest of the boys and since we learn a lot about leadership this semester, do you think there are instances where Ralph didn’t represent a good leader in the Lord of The Flies?

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