Types of Conflict in Literature: What is Internal and External Conflict
What is conflict?
Conflict gives a story meaning and motivation. Conflict is a struggle between two different forces - opposing forces. It can be a batter and a pitcher in a baseball game. The subtle grimace a parent makes when reviewing a report card. Conflict is a regular part of our every day lives. Aside from conflict in literature we see conflict on the news, sitcoms, movies and reality TV. We experience our own conflict on the road, school or in the workplace. Conflict is everywhere and most of us are on a mission to resolve our conflict. And, so do the characters in novels, short stories and various other narratives.
Conflict: Internal and External
There are two types of conflict in literature:
Internal conflict is within the character's mind. Internal conflict can be described as a struggle between opposing forces of desire or emotions within a person.
External is a conflict between a character and an outside force.
Categories of Conflict
- Man vs Nature (external)
- Man vs Man (external)
- Man vs Self (internal)
- Man vs Society (external)
Conflict: Man vs Nature
This type of conflict portrays a story's main character or characters against a natural force such as a natural disaster, a fire, an aggressive animal, illness or environmental issues.
Tsunami in Japan
Earthquake in Haiti
BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico
Conflict: Man vs Self
The character struggles to overcome a fear, perhaps an addiction, emotional issues or personal crossroads in life. This type of conflict can be indirectly shared by other characters as supporters or simply as witnesses. Internal conflict can include troubles with decision making, personality traits, spirituality or physical disabilities.
Conflict: Man vs Man
This conflict is usually the protagonist dealing with the antagonist. The antagonist provides some form of conflict against the protagonist. The conflict can be physical or mentally stressful.
Conflict: Man vs Society
In many stories, the protagonist battles an unjust form of government, culture, possibly a holiday or any society based group. This could also include Man VS Church.