Power in Lord of the Flies: Analysis & Quotes

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  • 0:04 The Importance of Power
  • 0:34 The One With the Conch…
  • 1:53 Piggy the Outcast
  • 3:41 The Power in Piggy's Glasses
  • 4:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Monica Sedore

Monica holds a master's degree and teaches 11th grade English. Previously, she has taught first-year writing at the collegiate level and worked extensively in writing centers.

Without power, none of the characters in 'Lord of the Flies' can hope to escape. This lesson discusses the different elements of power in their makeshift society. Watch this video to find out what this power is and who wields it.

The Importance of Power

Power is an intoxicating concept. With power, one has control over decisions, pieces of property, and most importantly, other individuals. In William Golding's 1954 novel Lord of the Flies, a group of boys stranded on a desert island after a plane crash must form their own society, and like any form of government, one individual (or group) must be in charge - they must have power in order to lead the others.

The One with the Conch Can Speak

In Lord of the Flies, power is symbolized by a conch shell one of the boys finds on the beach. He describes it as 'ever so expensive. I bet if you wanted to buy one, you'd have to pay pounds and pounds and pounds.' Immediately, the conch is valued above all other things on the island, and Ralph, the one holding the conch when they vote on a leader, is voted as chief.

'Ralph as he sat that marked him out: there was his size, and attractive appearance; and most obscurely, yet most powerfully, there was the conch. The being that had blown that, had sat waiting for them on the platform with the delicate thing balanced on his knees, was set apart.'

For seemingly no reason other than his possession of the valuable conch shell, Ralph is voted as chief of their tribe. From that moment, the conch symbolizes the power of their little island government. It is decided that whoever has the conch during a meeting can speak; however, possession of the conch is still closely guarded. When one of the younger boys requests to hold the conch so he can speak at a gathering, he is mocked by the others: 'The small boy held out his hands for the conch and the assembly shouted with laughter; at once he snatched back his hands and started to cry.' Eventually, the boy is given the opportunity to speak, but not before facing the ridicule of the other boys.

Piggy the Outcast

In addition to the younger boys, one of the older characters, Piggy, similarly faces difficulty in getting the other boys to listen to him, even when he holds the conch: 'He had to wave the conch before he could make them hear him. 'I got the conch,' said Piggy indignantly. 'You let me speak!'' Again, Piggy reminds the other boys that he holds the conch, but they continue to ignore him. Each time he repeats his statement, he grows weaker and less confident, despite holding the shell that signifies power and authority in the novel.

''I got the conch,' said Piggy bleakly. He turned to Ralph. 'I got the conch, ain't I Ralph?' 'What's that?' 'The conch. I got a right to speak.' His belief that the conch automatically gives him the attention of the other boys dissolves into unease, and his statement becomes a question. He eventually defers to Ralph, the chosen leader, asking for reassurance that holding the conch means the others must listen to him.

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