Lord of the Flies by William Golding

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What does the conch represent in the novel Lord of the Flies?  

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The conch shell represents the three things that the boys are clearly in need of: social order, respect, and power.

When they first stumble upon the shell, it reminds the boys of the civility they are accustomed to in their British society. In fact, the power of the conch is clear from the very beginning, as the children vote for Ralph to be chief just because he happens to be the one holding it.

"Him with the shell."

"Ralph! Ralph!"

"Let him be chief with the trumpet thing."

Ralph sets forwards the rules and announces that he who holds the shell may speak without interruption. We see now that the conch itself is not just a symbol of power, but one of courtesy and respect.

However, the conch also becomes a symbol of vulnerability. A shell—no matter how large—is a delicate creation that must be treated with care. Of course, the conch can only hold its power for so long. Once Jack realizes that he can control the others through violence, the shell loses its ability hold the Order together. By...

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