The conch is an important symbol in Lord of the Flies and is used and talked about many times throughout the novel. One important quote about the conch, and how it seems to grant power and authority to Ralph, can be found in Chapter One: “But there was a stillness about Ralph as he sat that marked him out: 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.”
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"S'right. It's a shell! I seen one like that before. On someone's back wall. A conch he called it. He used to blow it and then his mum would come. It's ever so valuable--" (15).
Piggy says this quote when he and Ralph first see the shell. His comments set up two aspects of the shell that will come into play later in the novel: the idea of using the shell to call someone and the shell being valuable.
"But there was a stillness about Ralph as he sat that marked him out: 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).
This quote reveals how Ralph and the conch are linked in the minds of the boys; the conch gives Ralph authority and sets him apart. It is this distinction that makes the boys vote for Ralph for chief over Jack.
"'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.'
'That's what this thing is called. I'll give the conch to the next person to speak. He can hold it when he's speaking.'"
Ralph uses the conch as a symbol of authority with the boys in their second meeting. The conch comes to represent civilization and order in this quote, as Ralph instructs the boys how to use the conch to take proper turns in their meetings.
"Exposure to the sun had bleached the yellow and pink to near-white, and transparency. Ralph felt a kind of affectionate reverence for the conch, even though he had fished the thing out of the lagoon himself" (78).
The conch is shown here as being "near-white" and transparent. Golding's description of the conch suggests an innocent quality to the object, and its transparent nature, a lack of motives or disengenuity.
"The rock struck Piggy a glancing blow from chin to knee; the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist" (181).
Roger's act of savagery destroys the conch and Piggy, the voice of reason, in one fell swoop. As the conch shatters, so do the last remnants of civilization on the island.
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