Metaphors in Lord of the Flies

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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Judith Dunkerly-Bean

Judith has taught university literacy and teacher education courses and holds a Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction.

In this lesson, we explore some of the metaphors in William Golding's classic novel Lord of the Flies. Golding utilizes metaphor to imbue his work with symbolic meaning, providing for deeper interpretation of the text.

Common Objects, Uncommon Meanings

'Life is a journey.' 'My cousin is the black sheep in our family.' 'This lesson is a breeze.' If you have ever found yourself using figures of speech such as these, you are already familiar with the ways that metaphors enables us to invoke greater meaning than the surface interpretation may hold. Such is also the case when metaphor is used as a literary device. Just like conventional or conversational metaphors, the use of metaphors in literature allows the author to convey complex ideas, images, or events in a symbolic manner. In this lesson, we will explore the use of metaphor in the novel Lord of the Flies by looking at the deeper meaning held in some of the objects and events in the novel. Once you have explored this concept, you may never read a novel the same way again.

Metaphors in Lord of the Flies

This novel is almost overflowing with metaphors. Each is used in a way that contributes to a greater understanding and appreciation for the themes and motifs in the novel.

The Conch Shell

The conch shell is a metaphor for the law and order of civilization. Piggy first intimates this when he finds the shell and realizes that it can be used to summon the other survivors and literally and figuratively call them to order. Later in the novel, Roger destroys the conch. Metaphorically speaking, he also destroys the civility and order that the conch represents. Soon after, the boys descend into barbarism and anarchy.

Piggy's Glasses

Just as Piggy himself represents the super-ego or conscience of the group, his glasses are a metaphor for the reason and intellect of society. Piggy is the voice of reason, and his glasses provide the boys with a means of starting a signal fire. Thus, the glasses metaphorically represent the civilized value of reason over wild impulses.

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