Compare the use of symbols to express central themes in Lord of the Flies by William Golding and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

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Symbolism is defined as the use of concrete objects to represent abstract ideas. Both William Golding and Suzanne Collins use symbolism in these novels to illustrate thematic ideas.

In Lord of the Flies, Golding relies heavily on symbolism to communicate his message about civilization’s fragile existence. Piggy’s glasses represent technology and intelligence because the boys use them to create fire on the island. When Jack shatters Piggy’s glasses—first one lens, then the other—this shows his disregard for intelligence while simultaneously demonstrating that Jack still needs technology/intelligence to survive.

The conch shell that Ralph uses to call the first meeting represents law and order. Whoever holds the conch earns the right to speak, and as Jack’s disregard of rules develops, he begins to ignore this fundamental law the boys established. Piggy clings to the conch shell throughout the novel, which indicates his respect for law and order. When the conch is shattered near the end of the novel, this represents the complete annihilation of law and order, while demonstrating the fragile state of civilization in the first place.

Fire in the novel can represent both hope and destruction, depending on how it is used (consider the difference between the signal fire and setting the entire island on fire). The nature of the fire and what it means depends upon its uses in a particular character’s eyes. This shows that power can be used for either good or evil—it depends on who exercises that power.

In The Hunger Games, Collins uses symbolism to comment on totalitarian government and how people will always resist its rule. The most prominent symbol is the mockingjay. A failed experiment the Capitol conducted to spy on the outer districts, the mockingjay becomes a symbol for rebellion. This occurs because Katniss uses the mockingjay’s mimicking song to communicate with Rue, a young girl from another district that Katniss bonds with inside the arena. When Rue dies, Katniss is reminded of her because of the mockingjays. The four-note call that Katniss and Rue created to communicate becomes a kind of theme for the resistance against the Capitol later in the series.

Another symbol in the novel is fire. Katniss becomes known as "the girl on fire" thanks to Cinna’s innovative dress at the opening ceremony before the games begin. The outer display of fire represents Katniss’s inner drive and passion—to win, to help others, to save her family, to make a difference. Katniss’s inner fire is her determined spirit.

A final symbol is the name of Panem itself. Latin for “bread,” the name of the dystopian country is an allusion to the ancient Roman strategy for appeasing the masses. “Panem et circenses,” or bread and circuses, was the authoritarian state’s way of keeping the people happy even as they were controlled. As long as people are fed and entertained, they will tolerate other injustices. Collins, however, turns this phrase on its head, because the peace in Panem is fragile: people in the poorer districts do struggle for food, and while the Capitol is entertained via the gladiatorial Hunger Games, the event is detested in many of the outer districts. As a result, the seeds of resistance are easily sown from the beginning of the novel because Panem neglects its own namesake in order to maintain power.

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