Lord of the Flies

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The Conch Shell Symbol Icon
The conch shell symbolizes the rule of law and civilization. It's used to call assemblies and as a kind of microphone that grants the right to speak to whomever holds it during assembly.

The Conch Shell Quotes in Lord of the Flies

The Lord of the Flies quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Conch Shell. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Human Nature Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of Lord of the Flies published in 2003.
Chapter 1 Quotes
"We can use this to call the others. Have a meeting. They'll come when they hear us—"
He beamed at Ralph.
"That was what you meant, didn't you? That's why you got the conch out of the water."
Related Characters: Piggy (speaker), Ralph
Related Symbols: The Conch Shell
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Piggy and Ralph find a strange object, a large sea shell called a conch. Ralph is immediately attracted to the conch because of its beautiful, patterned shape. Although he doesn't quite seem to know what to do with the shell, Piggy suggests using it to "call" other children on the island--Ralph can blow into the shell to make a loud sound.

The conch is one of the most famous symbols in the novel, and it's worth discussing a little here. One could say that the conch is a symbol of civilization at its best and most orderly: the conch is an almost religious symbol, designed to unite people together and make them respect one another. It's also worth noting that Piggy, not Ralph, is the one who first considers using the shell to call the other boys, and yet Piggy wants Ralph to blow the shell. Piggy, we could say, is the intellectual advisor--wise, intelligent, but not really a leader. Ralph, on the other hand, is the principled leader--not particularly brilliant, but smart enough to listen to his advisors.

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The Conch Shell Symbol Timeline in Lord of the Flies

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Conch Shell appears in Lord of the Flies. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Civilization Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
...they landed. Piggy says they have to do something. Just then, Ralph spots a huge conch shell. Piggy realizes they can use it as a trumpet. Piggy can't blow it himself,... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
...votes for Jack, but all the other boys vote for Ralph because he blew the conch. To keep Jack happy, Ralph says that the choir will be hunters and Jack will... (full context)
Chapter 2
Human Nature Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
Back at the beach, Ralph blows the conch to call another meeting. Ralph announces that they're on an uninhabited island. Jack interrupts to... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
...they'll have to take care of themselves. He makes a rule that whoever holds the conch at meetings gets to speak. (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Piggy takes the conch and says no one knows they're on the island. Ralph agrees, but describes the island... (full context)
Human Nature Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
...this "beastie" as just a nightmare, but the younger boys seem scared. Jack grabs the conch and says there's no snake-thing. If there is, he adds, his hunters will find and... (full context)
Chapter 5
Civilization Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
...meeting and wishing he could think as well as Piggy can. Finally, he blows the conch. (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Jack stands and reaches for the conch so he can talk. But Ralph refuses to hand it over and Jack sits back... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
...why, but he thinks they should discuss their fear to overcome it. Jack takes the conch. He calls the littleun's crybabies. He says he's been all over the island, and there's... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Spirituality and Religion Theme Icon
Simon takes the conch. He says maybe the boys themselves are the beast. Piggy thinks this idea is crazy.... (full context)
Human Nature Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
Piggy grabs the conch and shouts that ghosts don't exist. He asks the boys if they're humans or savages?... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Piggy tells Ralph to blow the conch, but Ralph refuses. What if no one responded? Ralph considers stepping down as chief, but... (full context)
Chapter 6
Human Nature Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
...that quickly becomes heated. Jack questions Ralph's decisions and leadership, mocks Piggy, and claims the conch no longer matters. For an instant it seems as if Jack might take over leadership... (full context)
Chapter 8
Human Nature Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
...could kill the beast. Ralph says they're just boys with sticks. Infuriated, Jack blows the conch to call a meeting. Ralph begins to talk but Jack says he called the meeting... (full context)
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
...joined him. As chief, he says he's going to get more "biguns away from the conch." He also says that when his tribe hunts they'll leave some of the kill for... (full context)
Chapter 9
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
...boys who will join his tribe. Ralph says that he's still chief and has the conch, but Jack says the conch has no authority on this side of the island. (full context)
Chapter 10
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
...while everyone is asleep. Ralph and Eric beat each other up, and Piggy protects the conch, while Jack steals Piggy's glasses. (full context)
Chapter 11
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
...only Piggy, Ralph, and Samneric remain in their group, Piggy tells Ralph to blow the conch to call an assembly. He does. They decide to go to Castle Rock. Piggy plans... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
At Castle Rock, Ralph blows the conch. Roger throws a rock, though he purposely misses the twins and the other savages remain... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
...start to fight again, but Piggy asks to speak and Ralph relents. Piggy raises the conch and once more calls them all kids, and argues that it's better to be sensible... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
...but Piggy can't see without his glasses: the boulder hits him head on, and the conch explodes. The boulder pushes Piggy over the cliff onto the rocks below. Blood leaks from... (full context)