Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies book cover
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How is power developed in various ways throughout Lord of the Flies?

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One way in which Golding develops the theme of power in Lord of the Flies is through his use of symbols, particularly the conch, Piggy's glasses, and the painted masks.  All of these symbols come to represent some aspect of power among the boys.  The conch is the first symbol to represent control among the tribe of boys; they automatically connect the sound of the conch to the man with the megaphone at the airport, showing Ralph and Piggy "the same simple obedience" (18).  Ralph's level of importance and sense of command increases through his possession of the conch shell.  Likewise, Piggy's glasses become a critical element of power due to their ability to make fire; eventually, controlling ownership of the glasses means controlling the power to make fire.  When Jack steals the glasses from Piggy, a major power shift occurs between the boys on the island, giving Jack the upperhand.  Finally, the painted masks also come to represent power, especially through their ability to instill fear in the other boys.  Before going to Castle Rock to confront Jack about the stolen glasses, the twins observe that the other boys were scarier with the paint, understanding "the liberation into savagery that the concealing paint brought" (172).  Golding's definitive use of the conch, the glasses, and the paint all act as strong symbols in portraying the shifting balance of power on the island in Lord of the Flies.

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