Two separate illustrations of an animal head and a fire on a mountain

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

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Why does Piggy die in Lord of the Flies and what does his death signify?

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Piggy, the embodiment of reason and civilization in Lord of the Flies, dies because he cannot adapt to the increasingly savage environment created by the other boys, particularly Jack's followers. His death, caused by Roger pushing a boulder onto him, symbolizes the destruction of rationality and order within the group. Piggy's inability to understand or engage with the primal desires of his peers, coupled with his physical limitations and naive belief in the power of civilization, ultimately leads to his tragic end and marks the complete breakdown of structured society on the island.

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Piggy is the voice of reason, intellect, and civilization in the novel. He dies because he is never able to put himself into the shoes of Jack's followers and understand the allure for them of the giving into primal, savage, and irrational desires. He represents reason, but a reason that is too one-sided.

This emerges from the beginning, when he is unable to take on a leadership position as Ralph can. Piggy is very capable and has good ideas, but he can't relate well to the other boys, especially those of his same age, who ridicule him.

Piggy has asthma and is overweight, and for these reasons, he has not participated in sports or learned the joy of physicality. This has contributed to his lack of development of certain kinds of social skills, but more importantly, leaves a gap in his knowledge of life. Jack relies on appealing to the physical side of the boys rather than the intellectual—dancing, hunting, killing—and this is something Piggy simply doesn't understand. Because of his limitations, he has never experienced physical prowess as pleasurable.

Piggy also universalizes civilization. He, for example, takes the conch with him when he and Ralph and Samneric go to talk to Jack about the fire. He doesn't realize that the conch is not necessarily going to be respected in this new society. He doesn't realizes that civilized norms are built on social consensus and are not laws of nature.

When the boulder comes tumbling down from above, Ralph realizes what is going on and gets out of the way, but Piggy doesn't seem to fully grasp what is happening, because it falls outside of his comprehension. He is, in a sense, crushed by his inability to understand why anyone would behave in an evil and irrational way.

The fragility of civilization is symbolized in how easily Piggy is killed and the conch destroyed.

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Piggy dies in chapter 11. He is killed after Roger shoves a boulder down the mountainside. Ralph manages to evade the rolling stone, but Piggy is not so lucky. The rock slams into Piggy and knocks him off of the mountain, where he is slammed against the rocks below. The conch is also broken in this tragic sequence.

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. The rock bounded twice and was lost in the forest. Piggy fell forty feet and landed on his back across the square red rock in the sea. His head opened and stuff came out and turned red.

That is how he dies. Answering why he dies is a bit more subjective. Some readers say that he dies because he failed to evade the boulder like Ralph. Others say that he died because Roger launched the rock. Other readers say that he died as a consequence of the Ralph and Roger conflict. He is nothing more than collateral damage. Regardless of the exact reason why, Piggy's death is symbolically significant because he is the character that most strongly represents reason, learning, logic, rule, order, civilization, and so on. Ralph does represent some of these things, but he also has moments of savagery that bubble to the surface. Piggy is consistently calm, rational, and reasoned. His death signifies to readers that all hope of a peaceful negotiation is over.

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Piggy's character symbolically represents intelligence, knowledge, and reason. Piggy is diametrically opposed to Jack and his savage ideology. Unlike Jack, who is a proponent of anarchy, savagery, and bloodlust, Piggy values civilization, rational thought, and democracy. In chapter 11, the boys travel to Castle Rock in an attempt to retrieve Piggy's glasses back from Jack and his followers. Piggy attempts to reason with Jack and his savages by asking,

"Which is better—to have rules and agree, or to hunt and kill? . . . Which is better, law and rescue, or hunting and breaking things up?" (Golding, 259)

Tragically, Jack and his hunters have completely descended into savagery and violently react to Piggy's questions. Roger proceeds to roll a massive boulder towards Piggy, which crushes him to death. Piggy's death symbolically represents the end of reason and rational thought on the island. Once Piggy dies, it is the point of no return and any hope of establishing a civil society is lost. One could argue that Piggy's death is a direct result of mankind's inherent evil, which flourishes in an environment without rules and regulations.

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Piggy represents the intelligent, civilized mind. When he is killed, he is trying to intellectually reason with the boys. He has to be killed, because he's making too much sense. Piggy is the one with the special knowledge, for instance how to blow the conch and summon the other boys. Once Piggy dies, all reason dies with him. His death symbolizes the end of reason. When people function without reason, they move to the level of id and destroy one another. In a symbolic way, Golding is saying that when the people of a society stop thinking and just react, the end of that society is at hand.

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In Lord of the Flies, what is the significance of Piggy's death?

Piggy dies near the end of the novel, when he, Ralph, and Samneric travel to Castle Rock to demand that Jack return Piggy's glasses to him, which he recently stole. Piggy is physically helpless without his glasses and is barely able to walk without guidance, but mentally he is resolute; he wants Jack to return the glasses because "it's the right thing to do".

The fact that Piggy is killed, and that the conch is destroyed with him, represent the end of intellectualism and the rule of law. It is important that both are destroyed at once, partly because Piggy invested more meaning in the conch than anyone else, which represented how dependent he was upon the traditional rules that the boys inherited from civilization, knowing that in a "might makes right" society he would be trampled. Piggy and the conch give each other meaning, and the destruction of one without the other would not send as climactic and transformative a message as destroying them together.

Piggy's death also has immediate significance to the plot and power dynamics taking place in the story; it demonstrates that Ralph is unable to protect the few people who are under his authority, and that siding with Ralph leads to death. 

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