Two separate illustrations of an animal head and a fire on a mountain

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding
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What are the main four symbols in Lord of the Flies?

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1.  The Conch--  The conch is the first major symbol that Golding introduces in the novel.  The boys find the conch gleaming "creamy...among the ferny weeds" (14).  Later Ralph uses the conch to call the boys together on the island and regulate their assemblies as a visual symbol for taking turns.  The conch comes to symbolize civilization and order.

2.  The Beast-- The 'Beast' is the sum of all the boys' fears on the island.  First mentioned in the second chapter by one of the littluns who says there was a "beastie...A snake thing.  Ever so big" (35).  The 'beast' represents the boys' fear of the unknown on the island, a metaphorical 'boogey-man.'  It makes the littluns have nightmares, and even the big boys fear the jungle at night.  Later on, Simon poses the idea that the beast on the island--"maybe it's only us"--that the source of evil on the island is really the boys themselves (88).

3.  The Lord of the Flies--  The Lord of the Flies is a fly-covered, nasty sow's head on a stick left by Jack and his hunters as an offering for the Beast.  Simon encounters the head in chapter eight, "A Gift for the Darkness."  Whether in a trance or hallucination, Simon and The Lord of the Flies have a conversation in which the Lord of the Flies confesses that he is the Beast:

"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?" (143)

Named after Beezelbub from the Bible, the Lord of the Flies represents the innate evil in man and the boys' descent into savagery.

4.  Fire--  According to Ralph, fire is the most important thing on the island.  As one of his few rules, Ralph commands that a signal fire be kept on the mountain at all times, with the hope that a ship might spot the smoke and rescue them.  In this way, fire represents rescue.  Jack uses the fire as a destructive force of power and a form of control, like when he steals Piggy's glasses to make a fire for his hunters.  Ironically, it is Jack's enormous fire set in the end of the novel to flush out Ralph from the jungle that ends up catching the eye of a nearby cruiser, thus resulting in the boys' rescue.

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