Why Study Conflict in Literature?Posted In Literature | Posted By Kristy Robins
Conflict in Literature
The study of any work of fiction wouldn’t be complete without examining conflict. Conflict often drives the plot of short stories, novellas, and novels. It’s what keeps readers hanging on until the last page and movie-goers in their seats until the closing credits. As characters work to overcome conflicts, their motivations, values, and weaknesses are revealed. When students study conflict, they can also uncover the deeper meanings in literature as themes are revealed.
What is Conflict in Literature?
Conflict in literature is defined as a struggle between opposing forces. The plot of almost every work of fiction is centered around the characters’ attempts to solve conflicts. Just like in life, sometimes characters succeed, and other times they fail. Whether or not a character solves the problems that present themselves over the course of a short story or novel, the conflicts keep the audience engaged in the action and give opportunity to reflect on the choices the characters make.
What are the Main Types of Conflicts in Literature?
Many types of literary conflict exist, but they all fall into two main categories: external conflicts and internal conflicts. External conflicts involve the character struggling against an outside force, while internal conflicts focus on turmoil within a character’s own heart or mind.
Person vs. Person Conflict
A person vs. person conflict is an external conflict involving a character’s struggle against another character. Oftentimes the author will set up this kind of conflict by creating a protagonist (good guy) and an antagonist (bad guy), although sometimes it is difficult to determine which is which right away.
Person vs. Nature Conflict
Person vs. nature, another type of external conflict, involves a character’s struggle against some kind of natural element. It might involve climbing a treacherous mountain, fighting off a wild animal, or trying to survive a blizzard. In this type of conflict, the main character must use his or her wits and any available resources to prevail.
Person vs. Society Conflict
In a person vs. society conflict, which is classified as an external conflict, a character struggles against his or her community’s dominant views or practices, often involving religion, laws, or traditions. In this type of conflict, the protagonist often seeks freedom from constricting or exploitative social conventions or laws.
Person vs. Self Conflict
In a person vs. self conflict, the protagonist struggles with an internal conflict. With this type of conflict, the character is torn between contrasting desires or loyalties. In some cases, the character must choose between taking a risk or playing it safe. In other situations, the character’s heart and the character’s mind are at odds with one another as he or she grapples with a difficult decision.
If you’re looking for a homeschool literature curriculum, consider Essentials in Literature. With a focus on exploring and analyzing literary elements through short stories, short works of nonfiction, novels, and poetry, Essentials in Literature features engaging video lessons and meaningful analysis assignments delivered in bite-sized chunks that make for a low-stress experience for both the homeschool student and teacher.