The Conch in Golding's "Lord of the Flies" Bears a Mythical Identity : Symbolic Stance of Authority, Civilization, Reason, Structure and Self-discipline.


Introduction: Generally, Conch, the shells of some species, is fashioned into trumpets for use in ceremonial music among certain religious and ethnic groups. For Example, Vishnu is depicted as holding a conch in one of his four hands. The conch in his hand is said to symbolize that from which all existence originates.  The conch in Lord of the Flies also bears a mythical identity with a symbolic stance of authority, of civilization, of respectability, order, intelligence, reason, and self-discipline. The conch Image shows Golding's delicacy of touch in his treatment of the myth in the story. His portrayal is most artistic. However, the study of conch follows several lines. Attention may be centered separately, with a view to understanding it thoroughly and training the mind studying in literary appreciation.

A sign of authority,of civilization and order: The conch shell in the story Lord of the Flies symbolizes the law and order of the old adult world which Piggy tries so desperately to protect. The conch is used as a sign of authority, of civilization and order which the boys are so used to obeying. The sound it makes is an assertion of it. The shell effectively governs the boys’ meetings, for the boy who holds the shell holds the right to speak. In this regard, the shell is more than a symbol—it is an actual vessel of political legitimacy and democratic power. When Roger destroys the conch, anarchy quickly ensues because any hope of strong, central leadership has been abandoned. The society collapses into chaos. Ralph and Piggy discover the conch shell on the beach at the start of the novel and use it to summon the boys together after the crash separates them. Ralph initially possessed it and became the leader. But the symbol of authority can not be asserted when there is no discipline or order in the society. Thus the controlling power of it is relatively supported by the order of the discipline. As the novel proceeds, jack and roger introduced the forces of chaos and disorder in the island and the authority of the conch became hoax. The conch was initially respected by all and when law and order broke down, the possession of the conch becomes a hallow authority without any teeth. The boulder that Roger rolls onto Piggy also crushes the conch shell, signifying the demise of the civilized instinct among almost all the boys on the island.
 
Structure: Again, the boys in the story decide to use the conch in order to create and stabilize some sort of structure within their savage surroundings - later on of course this fails because there is no ultimate power that steers them towards what was once considered "good". So without any sort of higher power or structure, a once civilized man may one day find himself covered in the skin of a savage or wild animal, stripped of good, commonly accepted morals.
Values of respectability, intelligence, reason, and self-discipline: The schoolboys in the island are tempted to turn away from the best part of them and obey the most violent, degraded aspects of their personalities. The Values of respectability, intelligence, reason, and self-discipline all are lost. Instead, Violence and degradation led them savage hunters. The climactic degradation is complete when the conch is crunched. It is not unfair to say that the conch is almost a divine conscience to them.

Conclusion: A certain amount of mythical interest has always attached to the conch in Lord of the Flies. With a continuous history stretching back into those dawn-days of history in which fancy loves to play, the mention of its name brings to our minds the vision of things beautiful and artistic, the memory of great deeds and days of chivalry. We seem almost to smell the fragrance of the rose-gardens of life, to hear the tale of war and of love, to see a journey from innocence to experience and to struggle for existence. There is no greater desideratum in Lord of the Flies than a complete and able account of the history of the children in the island, in which the connection between good and evil fully dealt with. Conch has proven those points elaborately. 

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An English Teacher;    M. A.(English) , D. Ed., B. Ed., UGC- NET Qualified

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