Lord of the Flies Questions and Answers
by William Golding

Lord of the Flies book cover
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What do Piggy's glasses symbolize in Lord of the Flies and how does this symbol progress over the course of the story?

Piggy's glasses are a symbol of perception, and throughout the story they represent the capacity for reason and logic. In this sense, they are symbolic of a society that values knowledge (for example, the glasses give the boys fire) and order. However, the glasses also come to represent vulnerability, as the boy's lose their sanity. Ultimately, the shattering of Piggy's glasses signifies the complete dissolution of civility.

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mwestwood, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Highly symbolic, Piggy's "thick spectacles" represent perception that is aided, and the ability to reason and to think logically, as well as a certain maturity. Also, when used for the rescue fire, these glasses represent the benefits of science, but after they are stolen and used to set fires that go out of control, the glasses signify civilization out of control.

  • In Chapter One of Lord of the Flies, when Piggy presents himself to Ralph, he appears older because of his heaviness, thinning hair, and glasses.  When he removes his glasses to wipe them, Piggy has an expression of "pain and inward concentration" alter his appearance.  So, the glasses symbolize this internalization of thought that engages in reasoning. For instance, in Chapter Two, Piggy again wipes his glasses as the boys assemble in response to Ralph's blowing the conch.
  • The glasses are also indicative of Piggy's vulnerability.  Again, in Chapter Two, the boys want to start a fire and Roger suggests making a bow and spin the arrow; however, Jack points to Piggy's glasses, "use them as burning glasses!"  Piggy is surrounded and screams, "Mind out!  Give 'em back! I can hardly see!"  Later, when Jack disparages Piggy for doing nothing, the solicitous Simon defends Piggy, "We used his specs....He helped that way." Of course, after Piggy's glasses are broken and finally stolen, the glasses symbolize the breakdown in civilization and the loss of rationality.
  • When Jack breaks Piggy's glasses after smacking his head,  Piggy's glasses "flew off and tinkled on the rocks. Piggy cried out in terror...."  This incident with the glasses foreshadows and symbolizes what will soon happen to him.    

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Piggy's glasses come to represent both weakness and power as the novel progresses.  At the beginning of the novel, Piggy's glasses are a symbol of his physical weakness which sets him apart from the other boys; however, as the boys figure out how to use the lens to create fire, Piggy's glasses become a symbol of power in the novel. 

Ralph's control as chief falters as Jack leaves the tribe and makes the bold move to steal Piggy's glasses.  Jack's act of theft signals a power shift in the novel.  As long as he controls the glasses, he also controls the power to make fire.

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beautifulsunshine16 | Student

The glasses represent ordinary society with rules and intellect. Ecspecially since he was the smartest and thought of the best decisions. when the glasses break, it shows the decline of their sanity and lack of civilization. When Piggy no longer has them it shows the total downfall.

w3stlife | Student

Symbolically, the glasses are significant because they represent the intellectual and ordered side of humanity.  The breaking of the glasses represents the breaking of the last tie to humanity that the boys have or had