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Conflict in Literature

Teacher/Instructor Katie Aquino
Katie Aquino

Writing, Grammar, Literature, ACT Prep
Education: M.Ed.,Stanford University

Katie is an enthusiastic teacher who strives to make connections between literature and student’s every day lives.

Conflict is defined as when two different forces opposing each other. There are several different types of conflict including person versus person, person versus self, person versus nature, person versus society, person versus supernatural, person versus technology and person versus destiny.

So conflicts are what make literature interesting, right? It's when two opposing forces come up against each other. But there are different kinds of conflict that get brought up in different kinds of literature. So I want to talk about those quickly. Person versus person conflict and that's probably the most basic one, you've got two different people opposing each other. Like in the Wizard of Oz you have Dorothy v the Wicked Witch of the West. So we've got Dorothy versus the Wicked Witch of the West. Those two different personalities are really conflicting with another.
You also can have person versus self which I think is a harder conflict to identify but those are all about inner struggles that you have. So in the same movie we have a character that has a person versus self conflict the cowardly lion, right. He struggles against the cowardice that he feels inside but this also bring in other emotions like fear. If somebody is struggling with something that they are afraid of or they are embarrassed by, that's always an inner struggle which is person versus self.
Then we've got person versus nature, so any kind of natural event and we see that in the world everyday but again in the same movie and well used in different examples in a little bit. But we've got, right; the Tornado versus Dorothy and her family, the one that hits Kansas. So we've got that natural event that they are fighting against.
We also have person versus society, and this is when you are struggling; an individual struggling against the majority. A perfect example of this is is the book 'Night' when Elie Wiesel was taken to the concentration camps during world War II. He's struggling against society or if any of you have read the Popular 'Hunger Games' book Katniss is struggling against the capital. So those would be both good examples of person versus society.
Person versus supernatural; so this is kind of a new one that's been introduced lately and this is when you are struggling with a force from kind of an other worldly source. I think a perfect example the movie is 'Paranormal Activity' I know they've been really popular. That couple in 'Paranormal Activity' is struggling against that supernatural source so that would be person versus supernatural.
We also have person versus technology which is a hot button topic these days. I actually encourage you if you want to look at conflicts like these; man versus the machine, look at Ray Bradbury. He's one of the best authors but he often talk about how man will struggle with technology. One of my favorite short stories by him is about these two little kids who have a room that transforms into any environment that they want; it's called the Vault. And they trick their parents into this room and they feed them to Lions in the African vault. It's kind of a creepy story but those parents would struggle against that technology, alright.
And then finally we've got person versus destiny, now this is something that you are going to see a lot in Shake Spear in plays. The Elizabethan times they really believed in this idea of fate and where we were destined to be, so great example of that is Macbeth. In Macbeth State is that he is going to fall but he really struggles against it the whole time and kind of skip does things to make his fate happen sooner which actually leads to his down fall.
So all of these are different kinds of conflicts that hopefully you'll recognize as you start reading books, watching movies or even watching television.