In Lord of the Flies, where does Ralph get the idea for using the conch to speak at meetings?

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Douglas Horley | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

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The conch is a very significant symbol in Lord of the Flies, as it represents order, power and respect for civility. However, as many of the boys slide into barbarous behaviour they also slide into disrespect for all the conch represents. Finally it lies smashed on the rocks when Piggy is murdered, simultaneously representing the destruction of all that was 'civilized' and good and pure. 

Ralph's idea for using the conch at meetings came from his experience of ordered behaviour in school. He knows that everybody talking at once creates a chaotic situation, so he needs a visible, prominent object for a speaker to hold and thereby have the speaker officially recognized as worthy to speak. Ralph, as the elected leader, takes on the role as teacher in that in response to a show of hands he nominates who is worthy to speak. "We can't have everybody talking at once. We'll have to have 'Hands up' like at school....Then I'll give him the conch." (p. 43). This again shows his socialization as a middle-upper class British schoolboy as he believes in civility and sees it as his duty to reproduce such norms.


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