So, Piggy is kind of the social outcast of the group. What’s more, he’s going to get smashed to an untimely and tragic death by a large rock.
But let’s talk about this rock-related injury. We were rather intrigued by the line that said, in Roger’s eyes, Piggy just looked like a “bag of fat.” This sounded familiar, so we went back a few chapters and found that the pigs were referred to as “bags of fat” as well. Then we sat around and thought about how Piggy’s name is PIGGY, and about how the boys went gradually from killing PIGS to killing PIGGY. Then we abused the use of capital letters to get our point across.
It seems the boys start to see Piggy as just another animal, and he is therefore killed as though that’s just what he is. The interesting thing is that the boys, because they kill Piggy, sort of become animals themselves. It’s a slippery, slidey, downward slope of atrocity. But animals aside, there’s another key point in Piggy’s death, and that is that the conch dies with him. The conch is smashed into thousands of pieces, which is about as close as an inanimate object is going to come to dying at all.
So what was it about Piggy and his relationship with the conch that warranted their duo death? To answer this question, we have to go back to the beginning of the novel, where Piggy, a.k.a. the “fat boy,” was discovering the conch along with Ralph. While Ralph finds the conch, Piggy is the one to identify it and tell Ralph how to use it. He then becomes the conch’s staunchest defender, always insisting on rules and order. He’s the character who makes such a big deal about learning names; he sees each boy as a fellow human being, and wants to give him the right and privilege of being called by his proper name. The sad part is that Piggy is the only one denied this privilege (except the twins, but more about that later). Having names is an important part of the system of order that Piggy defends. Even in the moments before his (and the conch’s) death, he is still asking the boys to think about laws and discipline instead of running around sticking spears into various hides. When the last defender of law and order (Piggy) dies, so does the last semblance of that law and order (the conch).
But go back to that first scene again for a minute, where Piggy tells Ralph all about the conch. Piggy knows what to do (blow into the shell), but is too weak physically (because of his asthma) to do it. This is basically a metaphor for Piggy’s entire existence: intellectual superiority, physical inferiority.
It’s also the governing principle for Piggy’s relationship with Ralph. Ralph is attractive, confident, and a natural-born leader. He’s smart enough, but he’s not on par with Piggy when it comes to brains. Ralph even admits this, and we repeatedly see Piggy help him out when he starts to go a little “barmy” as Piggy so delicately puts it. Piggy is essentially Ralph’s right hand man, but he’s still stuck in the role of an outcast. One of the relationships we watch develop over the course of the story is the one between Ralph and Piggy. Ralph gradually comes to accept him, to treat him better, to want him around, and Piggy, aware of this change, is beyond pleased.
Piggy isn’t just bright; he’s innovative as well (think about the sundial idea). He also uses science as a defense for his fears; there’s no such thing as ghosts, he says, because the world is science.
Golding was sure to make Piggy wear glasses. Still, Piggy’s glasses are more than just a pair of lenses – they’re an ingrained aspect of his entire persona. Did you ever notice how, in literature, writers say things like “his eyes flashed”? Several times in this novel, we see that “Piggy’s glasses flashed,” as if they are a part of his face, as if they are talking and reacting and, well, emoting. It makes sense, then, that this integral part of a character whose focus is science and technology, is used for the purposes of…science and technology. While the boys revert to their primitive and animal ways, the glasses become a symbol of the opposite sort of transformation: advancement, discovery, innovation. We’ll go into more detail in the Symbols, Imagery, and Allegory section, but in talking about Piggy it’s important to note that, in this way, he is the character most needed on the island. Without his glasses, the boys never would have been able to start a fire.
Far from being happy to help, however, Piggy is none too pleased with the use of his “specs” as a lighter. He’s extremely defensive, mostly because he can’t see a thing without them. We think there must be some deeper reason, however, why Piggy resents this manipulation of his eyewear. But we’ll let you take over from here.