What is the significance of the title "The Shell and the Glasses" (chapter ten) in William Golding's Lord of the Flies?  

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Chapter ten of William Golding's Lord of the Flies is titled "The Shell and the Glasses." This is a symbolic novel, and both the shell and the glasses are prominent symbols from the beginning of the story. The conch shell is the symbol of order and civility among the schoolboys who are stranded on this island. When someone wants to speak to the group, for example, he must be holding the conch. Piggy's glasses quickly become the symbol for life because with them the boys can make fire for nourishment and rescue.

In chapter ten, though neither the glasses nor the shell are physically destroyed, both of them are symbolically destroyed, as are order, civilized behavior, and life.

At the beginning of the chapter, Ralph and Piggy arrive at the devastating conclusion that only Samneric and several of the littluns are now part of the tribe that still respects the "fragile white conch." Piggy urges Ralph to blow the conch, but Ralph knows that if he does, no one will come and they will have to face the reality that there is no order or civility on the island. The conch no longer has meaning and will soon be physically destroyed, as well. 

At the end of the chapter, Jack and some of his tribe sneak into the camp on the beach and steal Piggy's glasses. This marks both the symbolic end of Piggy (who represents the intellect) and the end of fire used as a life-giving force. From now on, fire will be used by Jack and his tribe to cause death rather than life.

In this chapter, the loss of order and life is symbolic; in the next chapter they are real. Piggy's death is the end of all intellect and reason; Golding refers to the boys as "savages," and that is what they have become without the restraint of order and intellect. The conch shell will be destroyed and the next fire (made using Piggy's glasses, of course) will be a conflagration used to flush Ralph out of hiding so the rest of the tribe can kill him and mount his head on a stick. 


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swilcox01 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

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The shell is symbolic for authority and as  Raulph loses his authority on the island the shell becomes more fragile until it finally shatters.

Also, the glasses were symbolic for knowledge and reason which were worn by piggy. however, as more of the boys give into the savage ways, the glasses and broken and all knowledge and reason are gone from the island. (piggy also dies at this times, showing further loss of reason and civilization)