"No conflict. no story."
― Brooks and Warren, Understanding Fiction
A conflict is a literary element, which involves the struggle between a protagonist and an antagonist. It is the core feature of most fiction stories and involves difference in the points of view of various characters, as well as conflicts with their environment.
It is an important element of the storyline, which creates tension and interest in the story, and is very essential to create a plot. A writer introduces a conflict so as to achieve the goal of resolving the conflict, thus, entertaining his readers in the process. While short stories have one conflict, novels have many. Let us see the various types of conflicts.
An internal conflict occurs inside the character. There is only one type of internal conflict, i.e. man vs. self.
A conflict between the character and himself occurs when the character struggles with his flaws, doubts, desires, emotional challenges, and beliefs. He can either be seen trying to overcome fear, an emotional damage, or dealing with an addiction. Such a conflict is limited to the character and must be resolved by him only. An internal conflict is what determines the character of the protagonist. His character can be analyzed depending on whether or not he fights for the good, whether he gives in to the temptation, or whether he chooses an easier path, and so on.
A very good example of this type of conflict is Sophie's choice, in which Sophie has to decide which one of her children she should sacrifice to the Nazis. The conflict that Helen Fielding's protagonist faces in her novel Bridget Jones's Diary due to her self-doubts is also an example of a "Man Vs. Self" conflict. Other examples are The Scarlet Letter and Hamlet.
Conflicts that occur outside the character are called external conflicts. These conflicts arise due to the character's struggle with worldly matters. There are three types of external conflicts. They are as follows:
This type of conflict arises when two characters are against each other, or if there is a disagreement between the two characters. They can arise due to moral, religious, racial, or social differences, and can be verbal or physical in nature. It can either be harsh, such as a sword fight or a gun fight, or it can be more subtle, such as a conflict between the desires of the two characters. Such a conflict is commonly seen in fairytales. The antagonist trying to kill the protagonist, a scientist trying to stop the madman with a virus, a princess enslaved by a witch are all examples of this type of conflict. Ralph's conflict with Jack in The Lord of Flies is a "Man Vs. Man" conflict. A few other examples include The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and This Boy's Life.
Man against nature is another conflict that arises due to the character's struggle with a natural force; for example, an earthquake, a storm, or even animals. A man stuck in a storm, a man being attacked by a pack of wolves, or a city being destroyed by a flood are all examples of this type of conflict. Janie's struggle to survive the hurricane in Zora Neale's Their Eyes Were Watching God is an example of this type of conflict. The Old Man and the Sea, Moby Dick, and Robinson Crusoe are also examples of this type of conflict.
This type of conflict arises when a character is forced to make choices due to certain social norms. A man trying to change an unfair law, a woman fighting injustice, and a girl questioning sexual discrimination are all examples of this type of conflict. Atticus Finch's opposition towards the racial society that he lives in, in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mocking Bird is an example of a "Man Vs. Society" conflict. The Handmaid's Tale, Fahrenheit 451, and Charlotte's Web are a few other examples.
Modern Literature adds two more types of conflicts in literature. They are Man vs. God/Fate/Supernatural/and Man vs. Technology.
Man Vs. God/Fate/Supernatural
The "Man Vs. Fate" conflict occurs when a character is made to follow an unknown path. It forces the character to act on his fate and occurs when the character finds himself in a helpless position. In case of conflicts with the supernatural, the character struggles against monsters, aliens, or deities. Conflict with Gods was common in ancient literature; a classic example being the myth of Prometheus. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is an example of a "Man Vs. Supernatural" conflict. James Blish's 1958 science fiction novel A Case of Conscience is an example of the protagonist's conflict with aliens.
Man Vs. Technology
When the character struggles against man-made machines, which possess artificial intelligence, the conflict falls under "Man Vs. Technology". Frankenstein is a classic example of this type of conflict. Other examples of this conflict are The Terminator, The Matrix. as well as Aldous Huxley's 1932 novel, Brave New World .
Literary conflict is very important as it reveals the character's inner strength and weaknesses. It helps the readers to judge the motivations of the character, thus forming an opinion.
Answered by Aslan on 9/25/2011 9:15 PM
Yes, the conflict in this story is an internal one. Dr. Jekyll transforms himself into Mr. Hyde and is able to indulge in all the bad things he keeps buried inside of him. Soon the lure of this double life gets harder and harder to break. Eventually the two sides of his personality conflict until there is a breaking point. Dr. Jekyll has trouble separating himself from his evil alter-ego and must kill himself to be free of Mr. Hyde. The allusion here is to all of us. Most of us are able to balance our good and bad traits. This guy tried to separate them and it didn’t work too well.
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Let’s look at this question under a slightly different light: If nothing were happening would it be interesting to read? This question is closely related to the topic on hand – conflict.
As a writer it is necessary to put your characters in interesting situations that provide any one of the following outcomes: obstacles that affect his/her goal, suspense, drama, tension. The situations that cause these outcomes are typically conflict.
In The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative. Abbot H Porter says, “There may be multiple points of conflict in a single story, as characters may have more than one desire or may struggle against more than one opposing force.”Five Commonest Types of Conflict in Literature Conflict 1. Man Versus Self
These are internal battles that characters wage within themselves; these are internal issues that affect their actions, motivations and interactions with other characters. The conflict can be a recurring theme throughout the story or at a particular point in time. In Julius Caesar, Brutus constantly struggles with his feeling towards his friend Caesar and his country.Example of Man Versus Self Conflict
The below excerpt from Gora by Tagore is an example of a momentary internal conflict.
“…as the cab drove away, the girl joined her hands in a brief namaskar. Utterly unprepared for this gesture, Binoy remained frozen, unable to respond. Back home, he repeatedly cursed himself for this minor lapse. Scrutinizing his own conduct in their company from their first encounter to the moment of parting, he felt that his manner had been rather uncivil. He tormented himself with futile thoughts of what he could have said or done at specific moments.”Conflict 2. Man Versus Society
These are conflicts where your characters’ firm beliefs are against norms that the entire society as a whole endorses. It could be social evils or discrimination practiced by society that is opposed by a minority.Example of Man Versus Society Conflict
The excerpt below is from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It is the story set in a fictional town in America at a time when racial discrimination was at its height.
“Scout,” said Atticus, “nigger lover is just one of those terms that don’t mean anything. It’s hard to explain – ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody is favouring Negroes over and above themselves. ”
“You aren’t really a nigger lover are you?”
“ I certainly am. I do my best to love everybody. It’s never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn’t hurt you. So don’t let Mrs. Dubose get you down…”
These sort of conflicts are the most common. Your characters will be opposed by or will oppose the actions, reactions, motivations of another character or characters. As a writer you can choose to use this sort of conflict to provide comic relief to your narrative.Example of Man Versus Man Conflict
Consider the example below; an excerpt from one of my favorites – Swami and Friends by the legendary R.K.Narayanan.
“Oh wretched idiots!,” the teacher said, clenching his fists, “Why do you worship dirty, lifeless, wooden idols and stone images? Can they talk? No. Can they see? No. Can they take you to heaven? No. What did your Gods do when Mohammed of Gazni smashed them to pieces, trod upon them, and constructed out of them steps for his lavatory.
Now see our Lord Jesus. He could cure the sick, relieve the poor, and take us to Heaven. He was a real God. …
Did our Jesus go about dancing with girls like your Krishna? Did our Jesus go about stealing butter like that arch-scoundrel Krishna? “
The teacher paused for breath. Swaminathan’s blood boiled. He got up and asked, “If he did not, why was he crucified?”Conflict 4. Man Versus Nature
Nature serves as the obstacle for characters. You could choose to write a particular scene around a natural calamity such as a typhoon or tsunami. There are many stories waiting to be explored because, in my opinion, an inspirational story such as the triumph of human spirit over adversity will never go out of fashion.Example of Man Versus Nature Conflict
The excerpt below is from Life of Pi by Yann Martel and a great part of the book is set in the middle of the sea.
The ship sank. It made a sound like a monstrous metallic burp. Things bubbled at the surface and then vanished.
Everything was screaming: the sea, the wind, my heart. From the lifeboat I saw something in the water.
I cried, "Richard Parker, is that you? It's so hard to see. Oh, that this rain would stop! Richard Parker? Richard Parker? Yes, it is you!"
I could see his head. He was struggling to stay at the surface of the water.
"Jesus, Mary, Muhammad and Vishnu, how good to see you, Richard Parker!
Don't give up, please. Come to the lifeboat. Do you hear this whistle? TREEEEEE! TREEEEEE! TREEEEEE!
Supernatural elements are typically those that defy the laws of nature and are beyond scientific understanding. Such a setting adds gravitas and drama to the story. If you are using super natural elements you might want to make sure what genre you are writing in.Example of Man Versus Supernatural Conflict
Excerpt from Vikram and Baital, an Indian fairytale.
Remember the old saying, mighty Vikram!" said the Baital, with a sneer, "that many a tongue has cut many a throat. I have yielded to your resolution and I am about to accompany you, bound to your back like a beggar's wallet.
But pay heed to my words, as we set out upon the way. I am in talkative mood, and it is well near an hour's walk between this tree and the place where your friend sits. Therefore, I shall try to distract my thoughts, which otherwise might not be of the most pleasing nature, by means of sprightly tales and profitable reflections.
The great king nodded.
• Remember that conflicts can be a recurring theme throughout the story or a momentary and temporary obstacle
• Consider the above examples from literature. Observe how the conflict is introduced – sometimes through dialogue and sometimes through narration
Are there other conflicts that would affect characters? Do write to us; an example would be great. We’d love to hear from you.
In the story of “Forty-Five a Month” by R.K.Narayan, the man, whose name is Venkat Rao, faces all three types of conflict: man versus man, man versus himself and man versus society.
First, Venkat Rao has a conflict with the manager about leaving work on time. When he tries to leave at five o’clock, his manager stops him and pushes him back to work. The manager always works overtime, and he supposes Venkat to do the same as he, despite that day that Venkat really wants to leave on time to take his daughter to the cinema. It’s the conflict of man versus man Venkat faces.
Besides the man versus man’s conflict, Venkat faces a man versus himself conflict. He has a struggle with his dilemma over his family or his work. He wants to take his daughter to see a movie after work to show her that he is a father and he loves her, but his work needs him to stay longer. He hates to work so long everyday, but when he writes his resignation letter with resolve in order to have time to accompany with his family, he thinks about the starvation the whole family may face. Finally, after hearing that he may be receiving an added five rupees per month, Venkat chooses to keep the job and endure the long hours as usual but not to keep the promise to his daughter that he will meet her at five o’clock.
However, the main conflict that Venkat faces is his conflict against society’s expectations for the male to be the father-figure and financial provider. His unwillingness to work late is in contrast to his limited ability to get a better job and earn more money. He has no choice but accept the long hours; otherwise his whole family will face starvation. It is his struggle against the whole society that provides the main conflict.
This story tells us that it is difficult for a man to choose between work and family, especially in hard times or with inadequate ability.
What is the main conflict of the book. What type of conflict is it man vs. man, man vs. himself, man vs. the force of nature, or man vs. society. Explain how the conflict is developed throughout the book. Clearly state the climax and the resolution of the conflict.
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There are many sub sections to the essay you have been asked to write, so our first educator answer had better deal with your first theme - the idea of man versus nature and the conflict issues around that (particularly in the light of Rousseau's belief that man's natural state was best as that state brought mankind freedom from social convention.)
At the start of the novel the Virginian is a 'rough diamond.' In essence he is 'good' but there is a certain wildness about him, the vestiges perhaps of his original 'animal' nature. This unconventional personality will conflict with his local societal conventions so cite examples of this contrast where you can.
Hungry for a successful lifestyle and keen to win his ladylike sweetheart (who represents man's elevation above nature and natural animal limitations) the Virginian experiences conflict in pitting himself against taxing projects and the local unforgiving landscape of the natural world. He wins through however and impresses his ranch owning boss, proving his leadership skills as he guides man and beast eastwards to trade the cattle. This task too presents conflict as the Virginian has to deal with cattle rustlers, another epic 'test' he passes admirably on his way upwards to transcend his basic nature. Ironically, we see this character develop beyond the natural 'animal' state as he becomes a thinking, discerning reader of Shakespeare and a fan of other cultural pursuits under Molly's refined influence. It seems to be her presence that acts as the catalyst for the Virginian's resolution of the conflict within himself - overcoming his wildness and natural drives to begin the journey towards nobility.
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