What is a good example of authority in lord of the flies?

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The best example of authority in Lord of the Flies is the conch shell.  Found by Ralph and Piggy at the very beginning of the novel, Ralph calls the boys together for their first assembly using the conch.  When the boys arrive, they "gave him the same simple obedience that they had given to the men with megaphones" (18).  Already the boys equate the conch to authority and act accordingly, treating Ralph and Piggy with the same courtesy that they had shown adults.  

Later when the boys take a vote for who would be chief, the conch distinguishes Ralph as a leader figure.  The boys note:

"there was his size, and attractive appearance; and most obscurely, yet most powerfully, there was the conch. The being that had blown that, had sat waiting for them on the platform with the delicate thing balanced on his knees, was set apart" (22).

The boys actually vote for Ralph in reference to the conch--"Let him be chief with the shell thing" (22). 

With the leadership of the island firmly established, the conch continues to be a symbol of authority on the island in the boys' tribal meetings.  Ralph uses the conch to instill order and rule-following during a discussion:

"'And another thing.  We can't have everybody talking at once.  We'll have to have 'Hands up' like at school.'

He held the conch before his face and glanced round the mouth.

'Then I'll give him the conch'" (33).

In this way, the conch becomes a visual symbol of authority on the island with the boys.  The shell has an established presence at all their meetings, representing civilization and order through the boys following the rule of waiting to speak.  The conch gives the children the authority to address issues on the island at the meetings.  Most importantly, the conch remains in Ralph's possession, giving him the power to call meetings at will and the ability to decide who will be allowed to take turns speaking.

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