The conch symbolizes social order, respect and power. When the boys hold meetings around the camp fire, only the speaker who is holding the conch may address the crowd. The speaker with the conch is supposed to be respected by the group and heard. In addition, usually the older boys are the ones seeking to hold the conch in order to gain the right to speak. With the struggle to obtain the conch, the author is commenting in general about the quest of politicians for power. What will men do to gain popularity and votes in a society? What will they do to be heard by the masses? In the novel, providing food and fire for the boys makes a leader more popular. In the real world, providing funding for public works and social welfare projects in a democratic society makes a politician more popular.
By the time the conch is destroyed, the boys' civilized world has also become unglued. One of the boys was killed by a fire which got out of control and swept through the island. More death and mayhem ensues. Controlling fire, food and the higher ground on the island are the goals of the leaders. They need to be able to control all of these things in order to keep their power over the group and maintain some semblance of an organized society. The author uses the story to comment on adults' quest for leadership and power, and society's response to its leaders.
Donna Ann P.