The function of the conch in Lord of Flies

Question: What is the function of the conch in Lord of Flies?


A conch is a kind of shell that is covering the body of a sea fish. It is partly round in shape and white in color. One can produce a loud sound by blowing into it. William Golding (1911-1913) shows the rise and fall of democracy in his novel “Lord of the Flies” by using this symbol.

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As an organizer of society

In this novel, the conch is mainly used as a way to keep the boys organized on the island in check. Ralph used it to accumulate the boys for meetings. Ralph had the power and authority for blowing the conch. This goes hand in hand with how a democracy works and plays out. Without the conch, there have been no structures.

Power of conch

Power is the vital role that the conch played. It holds authority even to the best expected Jack. After becoming the leader of the group, he still esteems the conch. Not only Jack all the boys respect the conch and listen to its every sound. This goes the same with democracy. Democracy is good for society, the conch is for the boys. The boys immediately embrace the idea of democracy:

“The toy of voting was almost as pleasing as the conch”

Symbol of free speech

The conch symbolizes free speech and civil process that even the youngest boy can easily grasp embrace. Ralph grows frustrated that the meetings he uses the conch to assemble don’t actually accomplish much. While the boys agree to his plans for their society in principle, the rules are impossible to enforce. Jack suggests an alternate form of governance;

“We don’t need the conch anymore. We know who ought to say a thing—. It is time some people knew they’ve got to keep quiet and leave deciding things to the rest of us.”

This introduces the idea of authoritarianism or civilization in which citizens do not share power equally.

Destruction of conch

When the conch is broken into pieces at castle rock, it symbolizes the destruction of law and order. The destruction of the conch also implies the end of all civilized behavior and the beginning of autocracy, despotism, and barbarism.

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In a nutshell, a conch shell can bring society to a very prosperous and functional standpoint but when a problem arises freedom and democracy are threatened to survive.

S Ridoy Kumar
S Ridoy Kumar
Articles: 78

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