Piggy put on his glasses. “Nobody knows where we are,” said Piggy. He was paler than before and breathless. “Perhaps they knew where we was going to; and perhaps not. But they don’t know where we are ’cos we never got there.”
At the first meeting, Piggy explains the situation to the other boys. The act of putting on his glasses before he speaks symbolizes Piggy using his intellect to think logically about the boys’ situation, or his attempt to “see” and explain their reality clearly. The glasses establish who Piggy is as a thinker and what he offers to the group. On a higher level, Piggy’s glasses symbolize scientific reasoning and civilization.
“His specs—use them as burning glasses!”
Here, Jack realizes that Piggy’s glasses can be used to start the first signal fire, and he takes them from Piggy without permission. The glasses here symbolize the science of combustion as well as the intellect needed to utilize such science and the power of fire—a link between the lost boys and the civilized world. The way Jack grabs Piggy’s glasses without permission foreshadows Jack later stealing Piggy’s glasses so his savage tribe can light fires for feasts.
Ralph made a step forward and Jack smacked Piggy’s head. Piggy’s glasses flew off and tinkled on the rocks. Piggy cried out in terror:
Ralph and Piggy have just blamed Jack for letting the signal fire go out, eliminating any chance of their being seen by the passing ship. Here, Jack, feeling frustrated by his power struggle with Ralph, takes it out on Piggy, breaking one of the lenses of Piggy’s glasses. This assault symbolizes savagery and lawlessness attacking order, intellect, and civilization. The partially broken lenses symbolize the diminishment of intellectual thought on the island as things begin to fall apart.
Piggy took off his damaged glasses and cleaned the remaining lens.
When the bigger boys decide they will go to find out about the beast, who is, in fact, the dead pilot, Piggy expresses concern about being left behind unprotected with the “littluns.” Here, Piggy’s glasses encapsulate the boys’ situation: The one broken lens symbolizes the fact that rational thought is losing its power in the face of the boys’ fears, yet the one undamaged lens—which Piggy dutifully cleans—symbolizes the fact that some of the boys, Piggy included, are doing their best to remain rational and civilized. Overall, Piggy’s damaged glasses represent the increasing helplessness of Ralph’s group and the boys’ weakened ties to civilization as Jack and his hunters gain strength.
The chief led them, trotting steadily, exulting in his achievement. He was a chief now in truth; and he made stabbing motions with his spear. From his left hand dangled Piggy’s broken glasses.
Jack and his tribe celebrate the fact that he has stolen Piggy’s glasses. This act represents the fact that Ralph’s diminished group has lost the power to start fires and get rescued, which symbolizes the fact that their link to civilization is totally lost. Like Piggy without sight, Ralph’s group is now powerless and has lost their way. Meanwhile, Jack’s tribe has gained more strength now that they have the power of Piggy’s glasses. The entire situation symbolizes savagery winning.