Lord of the Flies by William Golding

January 17, 2011
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William Golding uses particular word choice and sentence placement to “work” his symbols. In Lord of the Flies, the conch and sun represent society. In “Beast from Water” they both disintegrate as symbols on the island. Golding strips the symbols of society from the boys in “Beast from Water”, and death and decay tear the island apart.
In the beginning of “Beast from Water”, Ralph changes. At the start of the book, he articulates his thoughts to the boys. During this chapter, Ralph loses his voice. His voice escapes him right before he notices the declining sun. “He lost himself in a maze of thoughts that were rendered vague by his lack of words to express them. Frowning, he tried again. … At that he walked faster, aware all at once of urgency and the declining sun,” (76). This is the first time of many times Golding places a negative comment with a mention of the sun setting into darkness. Ralph was once loquacious, and now he has lost his important ability to communicate. His new inability and the ensuing darkness foreshadow the change of a peaceful island to an island swarming with death and decay.
Toward the middle of the chapter, Ralph notices that air discolors the conch, also one of Golding’s symbols of society. The conch losing its color symbolizes the island being tainted with death and decay. Inside the warm Pacific water, the conch was yellow and pink. When the malignant island air infiltrates it, the conch changed and became nearly transparent. This symbolizes communication on the island deteriorating. The conch represented a right to talk. As Ralph observes the discoloring, he again notes the setting sun. “The sun in his eyes reminded him how time was passing, so he took the conch down from the tree and examined the surface. Exposure to the air had bleached the yellow and pink to near white, and transparency” (78). Golding creates a pattern: Ralph sees how the island changes, and then he notices the sun is leaving him. Golding demonstrates that the sun is the last piece of humanity left in the island, and as it turns towards darkness, chaos and death are following.
The sun, the final untouched symbol of society, sets as the symbol of communication, already transparent, is losing its value. The boys have a distinct lack of leadership. Ralph’s speech is boring the boys and they laugh, interrupt, and mar his speech. As Ralph disappoints them for the final time, they want a voice. At the start of the book, the conch represented order and civilization. Initially during assemblies the boys respect the holder as the speaker, but they soon begin to interrupt the conch holder. “There was a row immediately. Boys stood up and shouted and Ralph shouted back. … Hands were reaching for the conch in the light of the setting sun” (81). The third time, the death and decay begins and the sun departs. Jack fills the role of leader. He gives a threatening, demeaning speech to the littluns. Piggy, who already disapproves of this meeting, receives the conch. He is angry and the sun has finally gone out. “’I got the conch!’ said Piggy indignantly. ‘Ralph—they ought to shut up oughtn’t they? You shut up, littluns! …’ He took off his glasses and blinked at them. The sun had gone as if the light had been turned off” (83-84). This quote marks the start of chaos in Lord of the Flies. Piggy demonstrates intelligence and reserve at the beginning of the novel. As he yells and shouts at the boys, the darkness begins. This symbolic action represents all traces of society having been removed from the island. The conch becomes transparent and the sun leaves the children.
Golding’s finest symbolism occurs in “Beast from Water”. As his symbols of society and civilization leave the boys, death and decay inhabit the island. The conch represents communication in the novel. Once it discolors the boys cannot efficiently communicate. The sun represents order on the island and it sets, partly induced by the lack of communication. No matter the reason, the conch and the sun no longer influence the boys, and, although the sun does rise the next day, the metaphorical darkness never leaves.

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