Conflict is a cornerstone of narrative and storytelling, playing an essential role in both fiction and non-fiction works. It refers to any struggle between opposing forces. Usually, it is the central issue or the main problem around which the entire story revolves. This struggle can be between characters (interpersonal conflict), within a single character (internal conflict), or between characters and external forces (external conflict). Conflict is what makes a story engaging and drives the plot forward, presenting challenges that characters must overcome. This dynamic is crucial because it causes characters to act and react, deepening the story’s emotional and thematic impact.

How to pronounce Conflict

Con-flict /ˈkänˌflikt/

When do writers use Conflict literary device?

Writers employ the conflict literary device to create tension and interest in their stories. It is fundamental in developing the plot and is often what hooks readers’ attention. By introducing conflict, writers prompt readers to invest emotionally in the characters and outcome of the story. This device is used not only to reflect real-life struggles but also to push characters towards personal growth or change. Whether it’s a hero battling a villain, a lover overcoming obstacles to be with their beloved, or a community facing a societal issue, conflict is the heartbeat of compelling narratives.

How should I use Conflict literary device?

Using the conflict literary device effectively requires careful consideration of the type of conflict that best suits your story and how it will impact your characters and plot. Here are some guidelines:

  1. Identify the central conflict: Decide what the main conflict of your story will be. This could be character vs. character, character vs. self, character vs. society, character vs. nature, or character vs. technology.
  2. Integrate conflict organically: Ensure that the conflict arises naturally from the setting, characters, and plot. It should be believable and integral to the story, not forced.
  3. Develop the conflict: Let the conflict evolve over the course of your narrative. It should escalate in a way that heightens the stakes and deepens character development.
  4. Use conflict to reveal characters: Conflict can be a powerful tool to reveal the depths of a character’s personality, motivations, strengths, and weaknesses.
  5. Resolve the conflict satisfactorily: Provide a resolution that is satisfying and aligns with the story’s themes and character arcs. Whether your ending is happy, tragic, or ambiguous, it should feel earned and fitting given the conflict that preceded it.

By adhering to these rules, you can use conflict to create a more engaging and emotionally resonant story.

Types of Conflict

Conflict in literature can be categorized into several types, each serving a different role in storytelling. Understanding these types can help writers and readers grasp the nuances of conflict and its impact on the plot and character development.

  1. Character vs. Character: This is one of the most common types of conflict, involving a struggle between two characters, often the protagonist and antagonist. The conflict can be physical, intellectual, moral, or emotional.
  2. Character vs. Self: This internal conflict occurs within a character, involving struggles of conscience, choices between conflicting desires, or moral dilemmas. It’s crucial for character development and often leads to significant personal growth.
  3. Character vs. Society: Here, a character stands against societal norms, laws, or expectations. This type of conflict can explore themes of rebellion, injustice, and the individual’s role in society.
  4. Character vs. Nature: In this conflict, characters struggle against natural forces. It often highlights the frailty of human life and our inability to control the natural world.
  5. Character vs. Technology: Increasingly relevant, this conflict involves a character’s struggle against technological forces or entities, often addressing themes of alienation, dependency, and the consequences of technological advancement.
  6. Character vs. Supernatural: Characters face elements beyond the natural world, such as ghosts, monsters, or fate. This can explore existential themes and the unknown.
  7. Character vs. Fate: A struggle against a predetermined destiny or the cosmic forces of the universe, often questioning the concept of free will.

Each type of conflict pushes the narrative forward by creating tension and compelling the characters to act, leading to a resolution that defines the trajectory of the story.

Conflict in Literature

Here are some famous examples of conflict in literature that illustrate how this device is central to compelling narratives:

  • Character vs. Character: In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, the conflict between Atticus Finch and the racist elements of the town highlights profound social issues.
  • Character vs. Self: Hamlet’s internal struggle in Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a classic example of internal conflict, as he wrestles with the moral dilemma of avenging his father’s murder.
  • Character vs. Society: In George Orwell’s 1984, Winston Smith’s battle against a totalitarian government illustrates the conflict between individual freedom and societal control.
  • Character vs. Nature: Jack London’s The Call of the Wild vividly portrays Buck’s struggles against the harsh Alaskan wilderness.
  • Character vs. Technology: In Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Dr. Frankenstein’s creation of the monster and the ensuing consequences depict a profound conflict with man-made technology.
  • Character vs. Supernatural: Macbeth by William Shakespeare involves conflict with supernatural elements like the witches, whose prophecies lead to disastrous outcomes.
  • Character vs. Fate: Oedipus Rex by Sophocles is a tragedy that explores the conflict of a man against his fate, ultimately leading to his downfall.

Conflict in Children’s Books

Conflict is also a driving force in children’s literature, helping young readers learn about problem-solving and emotional resilience. Here are some notable examples:

  • Character vs. Character: In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, Harry’s conflicts with Draco Malfoy highlight themes of courage and rivalry.
  • Character vs. Self: In Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, Max’s journey is essentially one of self-discovery and facing his own feelings.
  • Character vs. Society: Matilda by Roald Dahl features the young protagonist’s struggles against unfair adult authority figures.
  • Character vs. Nature: In The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, the caterpillar battles hunger as it eats its way to becoming a butterfly, teaching children about the natural cycle of growth.

Conflict in Poetry

Conflict in poetry often drives the emotional power and thematic depth of the piece. Here are some famous examples:

  • Character vs. Character: The poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge features conflict between the Mariner and his crew, which leads to a tragic journey.
  • Character vs. Self: Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” explores an internal conflict about making choices and the impacts of those choices.
  • Character vs. Society: In Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise,” the speaker confronts societal discrimination and oppression, emphasizing resilience and self-worth.
  • Character vs. Nature: “Ode to the West Wind” by Percy Bysshe Shelley personifies nature as a powerful force, showing both conflict and awe towards its unbridled strength.

These examples illustrate how conflict enriches literary and poetic works, providing a mechanism for character development and thematic exploration.

Conflict in Songs

Songs often use conflict to convey deep emotions and tell compelling stories. Here are ten famous examples where conflict is central to the lyrical content:

  1. “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson – The conflict between truth and accusation as Jackson sings about a false claim that he is the father of Billie Jean’s child.
  2. “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele – A relationship’s breakdown, expressing betrayal and deep emotional pain.
  3. “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye featuring Kimbra – Explores the conflict after a breakup, highlighting feelings of resentment and confusion.
  4. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen – Internal conflict and confession, dealing with themes of guilt, reality, and fantasy.
  5. “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” by Taylor Swift – Focuses on the conflict in romantic relationships, specifically revolving around repeated breakups and reconciliations.
  6. “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan – The conflict of falling from grace, addressing themes of lost wealth and status.
  7. “Hotel California” by The Eagles – Contains themes of hedonism and self-destruction, depicting a conflict between desire and the ability to escape.
  8. “The Times They Are A-Changin’” by Bob Dylan – Represents societal and generational conflict, urging listeners to acknowledge and embrace change.
  9. “Stan” by Eminem featuring Dido – Tells a story of an obsessive fan’s conflict with his idol and his own internal demons.
  10. “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam – Discusses the conflict within a troubled youth, ultimately leading to tragedy.

Conflict in Movies

Conflict is the driving force of many memorable films, providing the tension necessary for a compelling narrative. Here are notable examples:

  1. “The Godfather” (1972) – Character vs. Society. Michael Corleone’s struggle with his family’s criminal empire and his initial desire for a legitimate life.
  2. “Star Wars” (1977) – Character vs. Character. The epic conflict between Darth Vader and the Rebel Alliance, highlighting themes of good vs. evil.
  3. “Titanic” (1997) – Character vs. Society/Nature. The ill-fated love story against the backdrop of a rigid class system and the catastrophic sinking.
  4. “Jurassic Park” (1993) – Character vs. Technology/Nature. The theme park’s attempt to control nature by cloning dinosaurs, which inevitably leads to chaos.
  5. “Fight Club” (1999) – Character vs. Self. The protagonist’s struggle with his identity and his alter ego, Tyler Durden.
  6. “Forrest Gump” (1994) – Character vs. Society. Forrest’s journey through pivotal moments of American history, despite his intellectual challenges.
  7. “Schindler’s List” (1993) – Character vs. Society. Oskar Schindler’s conflict with the atrocities of the Holocaust and his efforts to save Jewish lives.
  8. “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994) – Character vs. Society. Andy Dufresne’s fight against the unjust prison system.
  9. “Inception” (2010) – Character vs. Self. Dom Cobb’s internal struggle to distinguish between dream and reality.
  10. “Black Panther” (2018) – Character vs. Character. T’Challa versus Killmonger, a conflict that also touches on broader social issues.

Famous Movie Line Highlighting Conflict

“You can’t handle the truth!” – This iconic line from Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men (1992) sharply brings to light the intense conflict between two characters over ethical dilemmas in the military.

YouTube Link Demonstrating Conflict

Here’s a link to a famous movie scene demonstrating conflict from A Few Good Men: You Can’t Handle the Truth – A Few Good Men

Conflict in Advertising

Advertising often uses conflict to create memorable campaigns that highlight product benefits or brand values. Here are some examples:

  1. Apple’s “1984” Super Bowl Commercial – Portrays a conflict between individuality and conformity, symbolically criticizing IBM’s dominance.
  2. Nike’s “Just Do It” Campaigns – Often showcase personal or athletic conflict and overcoming adversity to inspire viewers.
  3. Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi – These brands frequently engage in direct conflict, each positioning itself as the better choice in the “Cola Wars.”
  4. Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” – Uses humor and conflict between mundane reality and the ideal fantasy to promote their product.
  5. Dove’s “Real Beauty” Campaigns – Highlight societal conflicts regarding beauty standards and promote self-acceptance.

Conflict Related Literary Devices

Conflict is often intertwined with various literary devices that enhance its effect in narratives:

  1. Foreshadowing – Provides hints or clues that suggest future conflicts, creating suspense.
  2. Dilemma – A specific type of conflict where a character must choose between two equally challenging choices, often moral in nature.
  3. Irony – Enhances conflict by presenting situations where the outcome is contrary to what is expected, often highlighting deeper conflicts within the story.
  4. Red Herring – Misleads the audience to think there’s a conflict in one direction while the real conflict lies elsewhere, used to increase suspense.
  5. Parallelism – Involves using elements in the narrative that mirror each other, often highlighting conflicts through their differences or similarities.

These devices can deepen the impact of conflict in storytelling by adding layers of complexity and engaging the audience on multiple levels.