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Both the glasses and the conch serve as a reminder of the civilized world that the boys in Lord of the Flies have left behind. Piggy's glasses serve two purposes: They allow him to see clearly, and they serve as the all-important fire-starter to keep the signal smoke going. The conch also symbolizes democracy and civilized behavior, allowing the person who holds it to be heard and his words recognized by the others. They also become important objects for whoever possesses them. When the boys take the glasses from Piggy, they leave him weaker and unable to see clearly; the new owners then possess the power of the fire.
Both the conch and Piggy's glasses represent power, control, and leadership over the group of boys. Although Piggy is the one who teaches Ralph about how the shell can be used to call the other boys together, it is Ralph who capitalizes on the idea. The conch goes from being a beautiful thing to look at to a symbol of leadership as shown in the following passage:
"The shell was interesting and pretty and a worthy plaything . . . Ralph used one hand as a fulcrum and pressed down with the other till the shell rose, dripping, and Piggy could make a grab. Now the shell was no longer a thing seen but not to be touched, Ralph too became excited" (13).
Once the conch has value, Ralph takes possession of it and becomes a leader. However, when the rule is made that whoever has the conch has the right to speak, it becomes an item over which the boys fight for control and power. Piggy's glasses, however, contain the power over fire. Whoever controls Piggy's glasses becomes more important than the one who holds the conch. Take the following exchange as an example:
"'I got the conch,' said Piggy indignantly. 'You let me speak!'
'The conch doesn't count on top of the mountain,' said Jack, 'so you shut up'" (37).
The conch's symbolic power dwindles as Jack realizes that he can gain control by intimidating people like Piggy. Eventually, Jack also realizes that by possessing Piggy's glasses, he can gain control over making fire. Since the boys need fire more than they need to speak, then whoever controls Piggy's glasses becomes more important than the one who holds the conch. Nevertheless, both the conch and Piggy's glasses represent power, control, and leadership.
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