Lord of the Flies Symbolism
by William Golding

First, it must be understood that the boys' lives on the island represent a world-wide society. Although one cannot be sure of Golding's motives for choosing the island setting, it was probably because it works best to have the characters isolated, where the laws of their governments cannot reach them. Also, why did Golding choose children instead of adolescents, or even adults? Most likely because children have not yet been fully conditioned by society to understand right from wrong, and thus in this ignorance, most of them are guided by their instinct and what is inherent within them. If older, more knowledgeable characters were chosen, the events of the novel may not occur as they do.

With that being said, here is a list of the symbols used in the novel and their significance to the theme, and each other:

The Beast

The Beast is the evil that resides within man. The children were all aware that such a beast exists, but none of them realized (except Simon) that it lies within them. Manifested in three forms throughout the story, the Beast constantly plagues the littluns -- the least conditioned by society.


Ralph represents law, order, organized society and moral integrity. Throughout the novel he is constantly making commonsense rules for the boys to follow. As chief, he knows right from wrong. At the end of the novel he too realizes that man is not a kind creature by nature. Anarchy finally hunts down society in the end, but Golding does not let us know which side would win without intervention.


Jack (and his tribe) represent anarchy. Jack did not have the integrity to keep the Beast at bay. He is the perpetrator of all three deaths that occur on the island and wishes to spend his time hunting (killing) instead of helping Ralph with rescue.


Piggy symbolizes knowledge and morality. Without Piggy to help Ralph it is very possible that Ralph may have lost sight of things and given in to the Beast. Jack, who, throughout the novel systematically removes the forces opposing him, is scornfully afraid of Piggy and eventually kills him to eliminate his moral influence on the group, which conflicts with his plan to rule with a triibalistic, survivalist moraliy.

The Conch

The Conch is a symbol of the high hand of authority. Used to call meetings, it is magical to the boys, who for the most part respect it. In the end, when it is destroyed, authority on the island is gone and Ralph is left to fend for himself.

The Signal Fire

The Signal Fire is a representation of commonsense and rescue from immorality. When the signal fire can no longer be lit, because Jack stole Piggy's specs that light it, its beacon of hope and knowledge is no longer present to guide Ralph who must then be constantly reminded by Piggy about what is right.

Piggy's Specs (glasses)

Piggy's Specs although not a clear symbol in the novel, their being first broken, then stolen by Jack, shows a slow and inescapable descent into anarchy and evil.

The Lord of the Flies

The Lord of the Flies represents the Beast's danger and power. According to E. L. Epstein, "...'lord of the flies' is a translation of the Hebrew Ba'alzevuv (Beelzebub in Greek). It has been suggested that is was a mistranslation of a mistransliterated word...for the Devil..." In the story the panic and decay that takes place is symbolized by this pig's head. In its "talk" with Simon it explains what the Beast really is.

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