Lord of the Flies Questions and Answers
by William Golding

Lord of the Flies book cover
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What do these characters symbolize in the novel Lord of the Flies? : Ralph Jack Piggy Simon The conch The island The pigs head?

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mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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One approach to identifying the symbols of Lord of the Flies is to consider William Golding's novel a religious and psychological allegory.  By doing so, the characters can represent, or symbolize, certain types.

As previously mentioned, the island is like the Garden of Eden on which the boys arrive from a society engaged in war.  Now that they are removed from the war and the influence of society in the form of adults, the boys must survive by using their own natural inclinations and thoughts.  Each of the main characters, then, represents--symbolizes--a certain type of person. 

  • Ralph, is the golden boy, the born leader type.  He is symbolic of the physical presence for leadership, a charismatic type, as it were.  At the same time, he is symbolic of the innocent, the ingenuous, who is unprepared for dealing with "the evil that men do," as Shakespeare wrote in Julius Caesar.
  • Piggy is the intellectual, the voice of reason without the brawn necessary to deal with savage forces. His heaviness, near-sightedness, and thinning hair connote age and its acquired wisdom.
  • Simon is the intuitive type.  He learns through emotional, rather than intellectual, experience as does Piggy. Because he feels, rather than rationalizes, knowledge, it is impossible for him to verbalize his realization that the evil on the island is intrinsic to the boys and not a "beast."
  • Jack symbolizes the penchant for savagery and the intrinsic evil in man.   Roger best explains this intrinsic evil as in Chapter Four he restrains himself from striking Henry with the stones--"that token of preposterous time"--he throws only because the "taboo of the old life"/his conditioning "by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins." 
  • the pig's head is Beelezebub, the devil.  It represents the evil in man after his fall and expulsion from the Garden of Eden.
  • the conch is symbolic of order.  Like a gavel, it is meant to call the boys to order.  However, once anarchy takes over, the conch loses its significance and is broken against the ancient stones.


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pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In my opinion, the major conflict in this novel is the conflict between people's "good" and "civilized" instincts on the one hand and their "bad" and "uncivilized" instincts on the other.

I would say that Ralph and Jack symbolize this conflict.  Ralph symbolizes the good and Jack symbolizes the bad.

The conch, of course, is a symbol of civilization as well.  That is because it is used as a way to try to civilize the boys -- it is used to call them to meetings and it is used to make sure that they do not talk out of turn.

I'd say that Piggy and his glasses symbolize intellectuals and science and how they are used by society.

Simon represents morality and is seen by some as a Jesus figure.

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rubyamazebeans | Student


kroark1 | Student

Each character symbolizes certain personality traits or ideals. ralph symbolizes leadership, order, and responsibility. Jack, on the other hand symbolizes chaos, disorder, instant gratification, and selfishness. Piggy symbolizes intellectual curiosity, routine, and a desire to conform. Simon, has been compared to Christ in his ability to see beyond (during his spell at the pig's head) and his ultimate crucifixation by the boys. The conch is a symbol of democracy, order, and stability. The island is a symbol of creation of society and ultimately destruction of that society. The pig's head, of course is the Lord of the Flies. It is revealed to Simaon as "the beast within all of us". Man's ability of evil.

Hope this helps. :)

mkcapen1 | Student

Ralph- is the protagonist in the novel, represents good, is a natural leader, thinks and reacts in a positive manner, befriends Simon and Piggy

Jack- Antagonist in the story, represents the break down of civilized youth, thirsts for the hunt/blood of the pig, natural dictator, rules by fear and control

Piggy- represents civilization, is over weight, lived with his aunt over a candy store, kind, looks out for the littles, his death demonstrates breakdown of civilizations

Simon- Spiritual representation, meditates, tries to solve mystery of the beast, communicates with the pigs head, has seizures, is slaughtered

The conch- a shell found by Ralph and Piggy on the beach, used to represent civilized behavior

The island- Garden of Eden, pure and pristine until mankind arrives, becomes scared by wreckage, and humanity

The pigs head- Represents the downfall of the youth, reflection of the uncivilized savage behaviors