In Chapter 10 of Lord of the Flies by William Golding, why is it significant that the conch is not taken? 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter Nine of Lord of the Flies, the society of boys suffers its greatest fissures.  While Simon heads back to the boys to tell them that the beast "was harmless and horrible," Ralph and Piggy search for the other boys and discover that they have joined Jack's party.  As they approach, Ralph and Piggy see that the boys are roasting a pig, and a boy runs by Piggy, burning him and making him again "the center of social derision."  Jack stands, waving his spear like a chieftain; he speaks with a tone of ownership.  When he tells the boys to give him a drink, Henry slavishly brings him a shell from which to drink.  Watching Piggy and Ralph, he declares himself chief.  Ralph argues that it is he who is chief, but Jack tells him "the conch doesn't count at this end of the island."

Then, the savagery excalates and Simon, who returns, is bludgeoned to death in a savage ritualistic dance.  Clearly, anarchy has taken over and Piggy and Ralph are beaten themselves in the frenzied dance. In Chapter Ten, Ralph and Piggy emerge from the coconut trees and discuss what has happened.  Piggy tells Ralph, "I thought they wanted the conch."  But, the conch lies shining by the chief's seat, and with horror and disbelief Ralph stares at it, then returns to Piggy, informing him, "They didn't take the conch."

"I know.  They didn't come for the conch.  They came for something else.  Ralph--what am I going to do?"

From the beginning of Golding's novel, the conch has represented civil order.  In Chapter One when they discover the conch, Piggy tells Ralph of a friend who had one; he would blow into it, and his mother would come.  Thus, the conch also represents the response of the adult world of civilization.  So, when Jack and the hunters steal Piggy's glasses, they take away rational thought with this symbol, and by leaving the conch behind, they abandon all order and civilzed behavior in their acts of anarchy.

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Lord of the Flies

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