The sow's head and the conch shell each wield a certain kind of power over the boys. In what ways do these objects' power differ?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In William Golding's Lord of the Flies, the conch is symbolic of the order of society while the pig's head is symbolic of Beelezebub and the chaos of demonic power.  Thus, they are representative of two different aspects of man's nature.

In the first part of Golding's allegory, the conch is respected and responded to by the boys.  They come in an orderly way to their meetings, they do not speak unless they hold the conch; they act civilized.  But, by Chapter 5, anarchy begins when Jack ignores the conch and shouts over Ralph's insistence on that the rules are all they have: 

"Who cares?....Bollocks to the rules!  We're strong--we hunt!"

It is at this point that Simon becomes "inarticulate in his effort to express mankind's essential illness."  And, Jack and the hunters steal the fire and leave the head for the beast.  Simon, who has hidden himself in the leaves, looks at the head after the others depart:

The half-shut eyes were dim with the infinite cynicism of adult life.  They assured Simon that everything was a bad business....the Lord ofthe Flies hung on his stick and grinned...and his gaze was held by that ancient, inescapable recognition.

Intuitively, Simon recognizes the pig's head, "Lord of the Flies"/Beelezebub as the evil that is inherent in man.  Simon tries to insist that he is merely "a pig's head on a stick," but the Beast retorts,

"You knew, didn't you?  I'm part of you?  Close, close, close!  I'm the reason why it's no go?  Why things are what they are?"

It is, of course, after this incident and the theft of the fire that anarchy rules on the island, replacing the civilization of the rules and the conch.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The severed pig's head and the conch both significantly influence the boys throughout the novel while symbolically representing entirely different concepts. The severed pig's head is left as a gift to the beast and is known as the Lord of the Flies. The severed pig's head symbolically represents the wicked nature of the boys and complete savagery on the island. The Lord of the Flies is also the manifestation of evil and chaos on the island. The severed pig's head enhances the hysteria among the boys and promotes their belief in the enigmatic beast. The Lord of the Flies also confirms Simon's suspicions that the beast is not a tangible creature and is the inherent wickedness inside of each boy.

In contrast, the conch symbolically represents order, structure, and civilization. During assemblies, each person speaking must hold the conch while the rest of the boys remain silent and listen. Initially, the boys respect the power of the conch and do not interrupt whoever is holding it. As the novel progresses, Jack continually disobeys the rules by dismissing the conch's power. He constantly interrupts whoever is speaking during the assemblies and even claims that the conch does not count at various locations throughout the island. By the end of the novel, the boys completely dismiss the power of the conch, and it shatters to pieces after Roger brutally murders Piggy. The shattered conch symbolically represents the complete loss of civility on the island. 

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Interesting question.  In Lord of the Flies the power of the conch is clear virtually from the first moment it's found--it has the power to unite the boys.  Soon it becomes the sign of order and discipline, as well, for whoever has the conch gets to speak.  Like all shells, it deteriorates with the sand and the sun; symbolically, as it deteriorates, so does order and discipline and civility on the island.

The pig's head on a stick, also known as the Lord of the Flies, wieldsa different kind of power.  Jack uses the sow's head to control his hunters.  He tells them they need to leave a sacrifice which will appease the beast and keep them safe.  There's absolutely no truth to this claim; however, the boys want to believe, so it works.  I think of it as kind of a placebo--if the patient thinks the pill is medicine, it has the power to heal. 

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Lord of the Flies

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