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Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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What does the conch symbolize in Lord of the Flies?

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In "Lord of the Flies," the conch symbolizes civilization, order, and rational thought. Initially used to gather the boys and establish rules, it represents human ingenuity and the ability to create order from chaos. As the story progresses, the boys' respect for the conch wanes, mirroring their descent into savagery. The conch's destruction, coinciding with Piggy's death, marks the complete loss of civility and hope for rescue on the island.

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The conch is a significant symbol in the novel that represents civilization, order, and rational thought. At the beginning of the story, Piggy and Ralph discover the conch in the lagoon, and Ralph proceeds to blow into it to call the other boys on the uninhabited tropical island. When the boys decide to vote for chief, the overwhelming majority of them vote for Ralph, simply because they are attracted to the beautiful, mystical conch that he is holding. One of the first rules that Ralph establishes involves the conch. The boys agree that whoever is holding the conch has the opportunity to speak without being interrupted. Therefore, the conch becomes a symbol of order and equality, which gives each of the boys a platform to express their opinions freely.

The boys also obey the conch whenever it is blown. Blowing the conch signifies that an assembly will be held, and all the boys must attend. The fact that the conch signifies an assembly highlights its relation to order and rational thought. As the novel progresses, Jack begins to disobey the conch by interrupting the person holding it and refusing to assemble when it is blown. Jack's character symbolically represents savagery and anarchy, which is why he is diametrically opposed to obeying the conch. Piggy, who is by far the most civilized, intelligent boy on the island, cherishes the conch and tries his best to protect it.

Since the conch symbolically represents civilization, order, and rational thought, the reader can accurately gauge the boys' descent into savagery by examining how they respond to the conch being blown or held. Toward the end of the novel, Jack and his tribe of savages completely reject the conch's authority. As savages, they dismiss any aspect of civilization and are completely motivated by their inherent, primitive desires. When Piggy travels to Castle Rock to retrieve his glasses, Roger hurls a massive boulder toward him, which strikes and kills him. The boulder also destroys the conch, which symbolically represents the complete loss of civility and hope for rescue on the tropical island.

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The conch is one of the most significant, and arguably the most memorable, of the symbols utilized by Golding in Lord of the Flies. The conch represents order, rational thought and civilization.

The conch, on its discovery, is simply a shell, but when Ralph and Piggy discover how loud it is when blown into, it attains its first symbolic significance; it can be used to summon the other boys and call a group together, and thus it represents human ingenuity and the ability to create order out of chaos. In this first instance it's simply a matter of gathering the survivors of the plane crash, but this becomes almost ritualistically repeated whenever Ralph calls an assembly. It is significant that some of the less-mature children are drawn by the sound of the conch and the formality of the assemblies, but seem to be unable to actually take the meetings seriously or to learn from them; they lack the maturity, and Ralph lacks the primal rule of force, that would ensure his rulings are followed. The conch begins to seem only as powerful as its wielder.

The conch is also agreed to give whomever holds it the sole authority to speak during assemblies, though this rule is almost constantly challenged or disregarded, especially by Jack; despite his initial insistence that they would have "lots of rules", he frequently interrupts the conch-holder, especially if it's Piggy, and often invents exceptions to the conch's power when it suits him. In a failure of his intellectual foresight, Piggy begins to worry that Jack will attempt to steal the conch, despite the fact that Jack appears to invest the least interest in its power out of all the older boys; this also reinforces how closely Piggy depends upon civilization and order for his livelihood. The boys also fail to realize that there is no punishment for speaking out of turn, which further diminishes the conch's power.

The conch's destruction, coinciding with Piggy's death, represents the end of abstract authority and rational thought on the island, and the end of the moral authority and social standards that the boys had brought with them. 

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The conch shell discovered by Piggy in the opening chapter of Lord of the Flies symbolizes democracy, lawfulness and civilized behavior. It is decided early in the story that the bearer of the conch will have the right to speak until the conch is placed in another's hands. The boys all agree with this, and a simple waving of the conch stills the argumentative behavior of the boys until Jack's group breaks away from the others. It is Piggy's biggest asset, and the boys are even forced to listen to him when it is in his possession. When the conch is destroyed, the democratic order is destroyed, and unlawful and immoral behavior becomes the rule.

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What is the significance of the conch shell in Lord of the Flies?

When you see one particular object pop up again and again in a story, that's a good indication that the item is a symbol, meaning that it has more significance than just its immediate function as a thing. It stands for an idea. (Usually more than one.)

When Ralph first finds the shell, Piggy gets excited and says "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."

Realizing how useful it is to make a loud sound with the shell as a means of calling themselves all together, the boys use the conch for that purpose. They also use it as a discussion tool: since they make too much noise and get nothing accomplished when everybody talks at once, they make it a rule that whoever is holding the conch gets to talk while the others listen.

Of course, as civilized behavior starts to break down among the boys and they turn into wild beings, a shout of "I got the conch!" doesn't help establish order any longer. The beautiful conch eventually gets shattered into tiny pieces--right at the moment that the always-civilized Piggy is murdered.

So, throughout the novel, the conch shell remains a symbol of authority (because whoever is holding it is in charge) as well as unity and civilization (because it calls the boys together and keeps them in order). When the conch is destroyed, so too are the last bits of reason, cooperation, and civilized behavior among the boys.

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

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 the time the conch is destroyed, the boys' civilized world is also in shambles.

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

Although it is Ralph who discovers the conch shell, it is Piggy who suggests its use. Piggy suggests that Ralph blows the conch to locate other survivors. The signal works, and other boys emerge from the forest. In this first instance, the conch represents unity because it brings the boys together.

The conch is later used to call a meeting where it is resolved that the conch will give the holder an opportunity to speak at meetings. Thus, the conch would be a shared privilege and responsibility for all the boys. In this instance, the conch represents order and authority because it gives the holder an opportunity to express themselves without interference from others and also helps in decision making.

The conch also represents rules and civility. The conch establishes some rules that all boys are expected to respect. However, when Jack and his group start disobeying the rules, the conch begins to lose its power to maintain civility. After the conch is destroyed, the group turns savage.

The author builds on the symbolism of the conch to not only demonstrate changes among the boys but also as a marker of the events that occur on the island. The conch brings the boys together, and keeps them together, until it is destroyed.

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

The conch symbolically represents democracy, structure, and civility throughout the novel Lord of the Flies. At the beginning of the story, Ralph and Piggy discover the conch shell on the beach, and Ralph uses it to call the other boys on the island together. Throughout the novel, Ralph blows the conch to get the boys' attention and adds structure to the assemblies by creating the rule that one must hold the conch in order to address the group during their meetings. In order to avoid confusion, nobody is allowed to talk unless they are holding the shell at the assemblies. Each boy on the island, including the littluns, has an opportunity to speak during the assemblies which is how the conch shell becomes a symbol of democracy. As the novel progresses, the boys gradually descend into savagery and the conch shell loses its power. While Ralph and Piggy remain proponents for civility and protect the conch, Jack and his followers dismiss the conch which represents their contempt for structure and order. When Piggy is murdered, the conch shell breaks. The broken conch symbolizes the utter chaos and barbarism on the island.

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What does the conch's fate in Lord Of The Flies symbolize?

The destruction of the conch symbolizes the end of rules and of order. It had always been a symbol of civilized behaviour and became a token that there existed some form of order on the island. It was the instrument which summoned all the boys to meetings where behavioural norms and other important aspects to ensure the boys' survival on the island were discussed. Furthermore, it was a guarantee that the rules of decency and respect would be adhered to, for the one who had the conch also had the right to speak.

The conch, in being used to summon meetings, also made it possible for the boys to socialize and discuss their concerns as well as their fears but also to consider a means to make themselves noticeable so that they could be rescued. It became a source of comfort for especially the younger and weaker boys, such as the littluns and Piggy who would otherwise not have been listened to. In this sense, it gave them power.

For these reasons, the conch became the most powerful object on the island. Its deep, booming sound created an awareness amongst the boys that something important was about to happen. It is ironic, though, that such an unsophisticated object could attain such a great measure of significance. Further irony lies in the fact that, because it was so simple and natural, it would fit in better in a savage environment, rather than one in which it became a device to maintain civilized order, and, therefore, be an emblem of sophistication. 

Once the conch was destroyed, everything fell apart almost from the moment of its destruction. Its annihilation indicates a dramatic turning-point in the novel. It was obliterated as the following extract from chapter 11 illustrates:

...the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist.

It is no coincidence that Piggy died at the same time as the conch. He was the one who thought rationally and who insisted on an adherence to the rules. He believed that they would only survive and be rescued if they maintained control.

Although there had been a move away from civilized order, specifically by Jack and his hunters, who called themselves savages, painted their faces and formed a tribe, their bloodlust and savagery truly came to the fore once the conch was gone. It being out of the way meant that there was nothing to hold them back. They were then able to practice their malice without any restraint, and this is exactly what they did. Jack gleefully and remorselessly celebrated the conch's destruction:

Suddenly Jack bounded out from the tribe and began screaming wildly. “See? See? That’s what you’ll get! I meant that! There isn’t a tribe for you any more! The conch is gone—”  

Once the conch was no more, nothing was sacred to Jack and his tribe. We read in chapter twelve that they purposefully set out to hunt Ralph, flush him out, and kill him. Ralph was nothing more than an object to appease their savagery - he had become much the same as the pigs that they had so gleefully hunted. It was fortunate that the naval officer found Ralph before Jack and his tribe reached him. The officer's arrival meant the return of civilization, the restoration of order and the end of savagery.

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What does the conch literally and figuratively represent in Lord of the Flies?

Lord of the Flies is full of symbols, all of which Golding uses masterfully to reinforce his larger theme of civilization versus savagery. Since no literary figure can ever be a literal representation, you are probably asking for the metaphoric and the deeper symbolic represetations of the conch.  At the beginning of the novel, the conch metaphorically represents authority on the island.  The shell gives Ralph the power to summon the other boys to assemblies and meetings.  In chapter one, the boys liken the shell to the megaphone used by the man at the airport, again reinforcing in their mind the notion of an authority figure. 

As a figurative metaphor for authority, the shell also is a symbol that symbolically represents civilization, rules, and order on the island.  The boys choose Ralph as their chief, and he institutes the rule of using the conch as a "hands up" like at school to signal who may talk without interruption at the tribal assemblies.  Golding builds upon this symbolism throughout the novel, culminating in the conch's destruction at Castle Rock, signalling the end to all pretense of civilization on the island. 

It is also possible to define these two figurative representations as a metonymy for authority and an extended metaphor for civilization.  One thing these representations cannot be is literal.

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From Lord of the Flies, what does the conch represent in our society?

The conch shell is representative of authority in the early days on the island. It allows Ralph (with Piggy's help) to create order and there is an attempt to create a mini home environment - as best they could. The shell becomes more than just a symbol and gives legitimacy to the person speaking - thus inferring democracy.

We can use this to call the others. Have a meeting. They’ll come when they hear us..

In modern society, freedom of speech and a right to elect leaders is crucial to sound governance and fairness . The conch is the closest the boys can come to this realization. It shows a maturity on Piggy's side - which rubs off on Ralph, a natural leader.

The conch brings the boys together and creates a common purpose-  even if only temporarily - much like co-operation between countries is necessary in a world of imports and exports and transfer of skills and so on.

The boys appear naturally drawn to Ralph’s stillness, attractiveness, and the fact that he possesses the conch that summoned them.

Those who speak through the conch are expected to show respect and those listening must infer respect to the one speaking. This is relevant in the modern day as there are so many ideas and so many possibilities that society demands to be heard.

What is also important is how the conch loses its efficacy becoming

clear, almost translucent.

Ineffectual government would have the same problem and in democracies governments change and new leaders are elected.

We refer to ourselves as supporters of various 'parties' such as democrats, republicans, independents, conservatives, liberal and so on and the conch is representative of the boys' style of leadership. It is relevant that the conch is destroyed at the end when Ralph's leadership is no longer effective, ensured or even in existence.

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What does the conch shell represent in William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies?

There are a number of possible interpretations of the conch shell's symbolism. Ralph discovers it on the beach, and Piggy suggests using it to make noise to signal for rescue from passing ships. Once it becomes clear that rescue is improbable, the conch is used by Ralph to call the boys together for meetings. In these meetings, whoever holds the conch is allowed to speak. In this way, the conch represents order and civility: it is literally the symbolic object used to denote speaking order and so encourages respect and civil engagement. But eventually, as tension grows and two different factions are formed, the conch is smashed.

Because it is Piggy's idea to use the conch in a useful way (Ralph merely found it beautiful), and because its destruction occurs as Piggy is accidentally killed, the conch also represents Piggy's part in the social dynamic: intelligent but physically weak, an outsider whose ideas help Ralph to emerge as a leader. 

In Buddhist spirituality, conch shells represent truth and strength. The loss of the conch leads to a loss of cohesion, and Ralph's intentions to lead honorably are compromised.

It is worth saying that the conch shell also represents female energy; the shape and color of a conch shell has been compared to female genitalia, and the general qualities associated with women in society (cooperation, nurturing, equality, sharing, etc.) are largely absent from this group of boys left to fend for themselves. The conch is destroyed at a time when some of the boys, led by Jack, are indulging in manly pursuits (hunting, fighting, building bigger fires than necessary, painting themselves like warriors, etc.) and its loss denotes a loss of the feminine influence that may have been helping hold the social order together. Interestingly, Piggy is killed after the boys develop a taste for the wild pig meat hunted by Jack, leader of the rival faction that does not want to follow Ralph's leadership. Indeed, after Piggy's death, Ralph's position as leader (a position he tries to use to unite the boys and help them survive in a cooperative way) is threatened and his life is endangered.

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What became the function of the conch in Lord of the Flies?

*Question has been edited to a single question (per eNotes policy).

The conch becomes one of the most definitive symbols in the novel.  Found early on by Ralph and Piggy, the conch calls all of the boys together for their very first organized meeting, and many of the boys connect the creamy white shell to a trumpet, in their minds like the megaphone held by the man at the airport.  In this way, the conch becomes a symbol of authority, which is later reinforced when Ralph chooses to make the conch a visual symbol in their chaotic meetings to help determine who has the right to speak. 

The conch represents power-- the power to speak during meetings, but also the power to control the other boys by calling them to meeting.   Because the conch is connected to Ralph's ideals of orderly meetings and tribal communitry, the conch also comes to represent in a larger sense, civilization itself.  Only at the very end of the novel when the conch shatters during Piggy's death, does the reader gain a true sense that savagery has completely overrun the island.

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How is the conch important in William Golding's Lord of the Flies?

The setting of William Golding's Lord of the Flies is a tropical island, so it is not surprising that a shell becomes one of the primary symbols Golding uses in this novel.

Ralph is the first to see the shell, but Piggy is the first to recognize its significance. Ralph sees that "something creamy lay among the ferny weeds," and he retrieves it. Piggy recognizes it as a conch shell and teaches Ralph how to blow it. For Ralph, the conch is something new and fun to play with, but from the beginning Piggy understands its importance.

The shell has the ability to communicate; when Ralph blows the shell, all the other boys gather. During the next meeting, the shell also becomes the symbol of order. Ralph says, "I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak. He can hold it when he’s speaking.” Though the group routinely ignores Piggy when he holds the conch, it is nevertheless the primary symbol of order and civility for the boys.

Like all shells, though, the shell begins to fade and erode from the effects of sun, sand, salt, and water. This parallels the gradual erosion of civility and order on the island. After Jack steals Piggy's glasses, Piggy has finally had enough of being mistreated and takes the conch up the mountain, led by Ralph because he can barely see. When they arrive, Ralph takes the conch from Piggy and blows it to call an assembly. 

Piggy demands to know “Which is better—to have rules and agree, or to hunt and kill?” He is shouted down by the savages in the fort who eventually answer him by dropping a boulder on him and killing him. "[T]he conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist."

When the conch, the primary symbol of order and civilization, is gone, so is any remaining conscience or restraint. Jack commands his tribe to kill Ralph, and they undoubtedly would have done it if they had not been rescued. 

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What is the symbolism of the conch in Lord of the Flies?

Good question!

Holding the conch gives individuals the right to speak in public gatherings, and therefore, the conch symbolizes a commitment to civilized society, and to a kind of democratic inclusivity in the decision making process.

It matters, therefore, when people start ignoring the conch, that they stumble across the conch essentially by accident--and that it breaks. When it breaks, that's a sign that society is breaking down.

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Name two things that the conch may symbolize in Lord of the Flies. 

Since the conch is the instrument that first brings the boys together on the island, it becomes a symbol of unity. It is also a natural object, almost like a beautiful gem Ralph and Piggy discovered; so it has an association with a natural beauty and a natural order. Therefore, there is something natural about using it to establish order but it is also a social object because it is used to organize the society of boys on the island. It is a symbol of natural and social unity and organization. 

As time goes on, the conch is used when a boy wishes to speak. Given that the leaders do most of the speaking, the conch becomes a symbol of power. He who holds the conch has the power to speak and possibly give orders. When the boys splinter into two groups, the conch loses both of these associations: unity and power. It no longer can be used to unify all of the boys and the boys no longer use it to establish power in an orderly way. The significant moment when the boys abandon a civilized society occurs when Piggy is killed and this is also when the conch is shattered.

The rock struck Piggy a glancing blow from chin to knee; the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist. Piggy, saying nothing, with no time for even a grunt, traveled through the air sideways from the rock, turning over as he went. 

Suddenly Jack bounded out from the tribe and began screaming wildly. “See? See? That’s what you’ll get! I meant that! There isn’t a tribe for you any more! The conch is gone—” 

In the end, the conch became the symbol of the tribe itself. 

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Explain the symbolic meaning of the conch shell in the novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

One of the major themes of the book, Lord of the Flies,is the tension in all of us between order and chaos, or savagery and civilization. The protagonist, Ralph represents the former and Jack, the antagonist, represent the latter. Golding is suggesting that we all have elements of both in our hearts. 

With that backdrop, the conch is an important symbol in the story for two reasons. First, the conch is used to bring people together. It is, therefore, a force for order and unity. It represents civilization and order. When the conch is broken, this is a very symbolic moment, because this suggests that order is now no longer what governs the boys. Even a look at the novel will show that after the conch is broken, things get considerably worse. 

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Analyze the conch shell as a symbol in Lord of the Flies, by William Golding.

Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, is a symbolic novel, and one of the primary symbols Golding uses is a conch shell. Ralph discovers the shell and retrieves it, but it is Piggy who understands how it might be used to help keep order on the island. He teaches Ralph how to blow it, and soon all the other boys respond and begin to gather.

The conch is a powerful symbol of order. When the boys decide to elect a leader, they do not choose Jack (who is already a leader) or Piggy (who has made the only efforts to lead and organize). Instead they choose Ralph.

None of the boys could have found good reason for this; what intelligence had been shown was traceable to Piggy while the most obvious leader was Jack. 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.

The conch works effectively for awhile, as the boys routinely respond its call and respect the rule that whoever holds the conch has the floor; eventually, though, Ralph is afraid to blow the conch because he is afraid no one will respond and they will all be forced to admit that there is no more order on this island. Just as the shell has begun to show the effects of time, sun, salt, and water, so the power of the conch begins to fade. 

In the end, when Piggy confronts Jack and the other savages, he holds the conch in a desperate attempt to maintain some semblance of lawfulness and order on the island; however, Roger drops a boulder onto Piggy, and both he and the conch are crushed. When the conch, symbol of order, is gone, so is order itself. 

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In the book Lord of the Flies, what is the conch used for?

At the beginning, the conch is used to call the boys together. It is a symbol of society, of civilization, and particularly of Ralph's desire to organize the boys into a meaningful group. It is given the authority to determine who gets to speak and rules are made that when someone has the conch, the rest of the boys are supposed to listen.

As time goes on, the authority of the conch begins to wane. It is overshadowed by the power of Jack and his hunters and their idea of fighting back against the beast or whatever else frightens them. Instead of organization, the boys begin to crave the violence and ritual of a more savage way of life.

The conch as a symbol of civilization is destroyed when Piggy is killed by Roger. The dream of organization and civilization is destroyed with it and Ralph realizes that his hope for the boys, his hope for rescue, will certainly not come the way he imagined.

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What is the significance and meaning of the shattered conch in Lord of the Flies?

In chapter 11, Ralph, Piggy, and Samneric approach Castle Rock and demand that Jack return Piggy's glasses. Ralph and Jack proceed to engage in a physical altercation, and Piggy shouts at the top of his lungs to end the brawl. Piggy holds onto the conch as he addresses Jack and his savage followers. Piggy proceeds to tell the boys that they are acting like a crowd of kids and asks if it is better to remain sensible like Ralph or dress like painted Indians. Piggy then asks:

Which is better, law and rescue, or hunting and breaking things up? (Golding 259)

As Piggy is addressing the boys, Ralph hears the sound of a massive boulder rolling down the side of the cliff directly toward Piggy. Before Piggy can move out of the way, he is struck by the boulder and the conch breaks into "a thousand white fragments."

The destruction of the conch is a significant moment and indicates the point of no return. Throughout the novel, the conch symbolically represented civilization, democracy, and order. Therefore, its destruction symbolically represents the loss of hope and the end of civilization on the uninhabited tropical island. Without the conch, order and civility do not exist on the island, where anarchy reigns supreme.

Following Piggy's death, Jack and his savages begin hunting Ralph throughout the island, and there is no longer a possibility of creating a functioning, civil society.

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