Analyzing Glasses and Modern Culture: Literature

Eyeglasses in modern culture have also served as symbols in literary works. For example, in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, Piggy’s glasses play an essential part in the boys’ journey on the deserted island. Golding’s novel revolves around a group of stranded boys who find themselves alone on a tropical island. Piggy, arguably the most important character in the novel, is a short and stalky boy who wears glasses. While half of the boys are quick to assimilate to the savage, unruly life in the jungle, the other half attempts to remain civilized. As the story unfolds, more and more boys become barbarous and eventually begin killing one another because they’re overtaken with a wild spirit. One of the most important themes in Golding’s novel is the inability of the boys to recreate a civilized, orderly way of life on the deserted island, and how this is parallel to the chaos that erupts in the “real” world.


Many literary scholars believe that Piggy’s eyeglasses also reflect the deterioration of humanity on the island. Piggy’s glasses are used in order to spark a fire using the sun so they can send a smoke signal for rescue. Therefore, many people conclude that his glasses and civilization are one in the same. From the time a lens is punched out of the frame to when Piggy is killed and his glasses stolen, the piece of eyewear is a parallel to how untamed the boys become by the end of the novel.


Piggy represents the voice of reason and logic, but only when he has his glasses. As time goes on, the boys realize what an important commodity the glasses are; the owner of the glasses has the power to start fires and command attention.


It’s interesting to note how glasses are portrayed in literary works. People with glasses are seen as logical and rational and glasses are coveted because of their science (in this case, they can spark fires to cook raw meat and send rescue signals). Companies sell glasses by promoting them as being fashionable and adding to one’s self image, Golding’s book portrays them in a new light.  


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