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Literary conflicts are built upon the plot of the work of an author. They are brought out clearly through the characters that are used by the author. These conflicts could either be person versus person, person versus society, person versus nature or even internal conflicts. Different authors use different form of conflicts in presentation of their work.
Ernest Hemingway's 'A Farewell to Arms' is built upon the love affair between American army man, Fredrick Henry and a nurse, Catherine Barkley. They meet after Fredrick is injured and Catherine attends to him. While recuperating, their relationship becomes immense and intimate; three months later, Catherine informs Fredrick of her pregnancy. Immediately after, Fredrick returns to war and is later on arrested on the suspicion that he is a spy because he is an American who speaks Italian. He manages to escape and meets up with his lover, Catherine. Together, they run away from Italy to Switzerland. While there, she goes into labor and has a still birth. She loses a lot of blood and eventually dies. (Hemingway 1997)
In the work of Hemingway, there is a person versus person conflict that arises between Fredrick and Catherine. This happens when Fredrick falls in love with Catherine, yet he is still in the army. He needs to make a choice of whether to continue with his love affair or go back to the camp. Eventually, he chooses to run away with his lover. There is also a conflict of person versus society. This is evident when Fredrick chooses to run away instead of continuing with his army duties in the Italian army. The societal expectations would be that he would continue to serving in the army irrespective of his personal life. This includes the pregnancy of his lover. It is also the societal expectation that Fredrick would turn himself in to the police who are out to arrest him as he is a spy suspect. His decision, therefore, to run away with his wife is against the societal expectation.
In Hemingway's work, the person versus nature conflict also arises. This is when Catherine gets pregnant, but the pregnancy results into complications. These complications lead to an operation only for her to have a still birth. As if that was not enough, she too bled to death. This is fate, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. The death of the expected new born and that of Catherine devastates Fredrick. However, there is absolutely nothing he can do to rescue either of one of them or both of them. There are also internal conflicts when Fredrick is named a suspect, yet he is part of the force. The reason for the suspicion is viewed as the fact that he is American, yet he speaks Italian. This is a conflict due to race. The policemen think that he is a spy for then Americans. This conflict indicates a lack of trust of their men.
'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a novel that is built on a series of love affairs and anger resulting from betrayals. Nick Carraway is the narrator of the novel. He had just moved into the neighborhood of the rich. His neighbor, Gatsby, threw parties every now and then, so as to attract the attention of, Daisy, the woman he was in love. Daisy was married to Tom. However, Tom had an affair with Myrtle Wilson, the wife to George Wilson. One day, Nick got an invitation to one of Gatsby's parties, and it was then that Gatsby made his intention known through Jordan, Nick's girlfriend. Later Nick made an arrangement for a reunion between Gatsby and Daisy and, an affair began. When Tom learnt of the affair, he told Daisy that Gatsby got all his money through illegal dealings. This angered Daisy who drove away and ran over Myrtle Wilson. Tom was so affected that he revealed that the driver of the car was Gatsby. George was so angry that he went to Gatsby apartment and shot him dead and also committed suicide. Later, Nick organized a funeral for him and later departed from the town.
In Fitzgerald's work, he has used different forms of conflicts. Person versus person conflict is evident between Gatsby and Tom. This conflict is due to the fact that Gatsby is in love with Tom's wife. Gatsby even has an affair with Tom's wife. Tom, on the other hand, is angry because he cannot believe that his wife is unfaithful to him. This anger leads him to revealing the true identity of Gatsby. He also tells George Wilson that it was Gatsby who ran over his wife. Afterwards, George kills Gatsby thinking that he had sexual relationship with his wife. There is also the use of person versus society conflict. This is displayed through the continuous unfaithfulness and infidelity. Tom has an affair with George's wife, and Gatsby has an affair with Tom's wife. This is against societal expectations. Also, Tom accuses Gatsby wrongly of having had an affair with George's wife. This is against societal values. Killing others is also wrong and against societal values. This is seen when George Wilson shoots Gatsby. (Fitzgerald 2008)
There is also person versus nature conflict. This is evident when Daisy runs over Myrtle, yet she did not mean to kill her. It was an accident. It was completely out of control. Also, George's committing suicide was out of hand as it may have been caused by his denial after killing Gatsby. The author has also used internal conflicts in his work. This is evident because Nick at times admires Gatsby but is also in disagreement with the fact that he deals in illegal business. However, the major internal conflict is presented by Gatsby strive to be accepted by the rich and those of the upper class. However, he does this through being involved in illegal business. His past cannot be erased, and he can, therefore, not win the love of Daisy. Therefore, his past contradicts his wishes for the future.
'The Old Man and The Sea' is another literary work by Ernest Hemingway. The story revolves around an old fisherman, Santiago. He normally goes fishing with a young man, Manolin. However, for a period of time, he had not been successful in the fishing grounds. As if that was not enough, the parents of the young man forbid him from going fishing with the old man. However, the young man still took care of Santiago by taking for him food every other time. One day, Santiago decided to go fishing deeper into the sea. Eventually, he managed to get hold a very huge marlin. However, it was too heavy for him and it pulled the boat. Santiago was determined and did not give up. On his way back to the shore, he was attacked by several sharks and managed to kill most of them. Unfortunately, he ran out spears to kill the sharks. As more of the sharks attacked him, they ate the marlin and only left the skeleton. He retired to bed tired and distressed. Later that morning, other fishermen gathered around his boat; amazed at the big marlin. Manolin then went to see him, and even cried at the thought of the suffering that his friend had gone through. He offered him coffee and told him about baseball. They then agreed to continue fishing together. (Hemingway 2002)
In his work, Hemingway has used person versus person conflict. This is evident when Manolin's parents forbid him from fishing with Santiago. This prevents the good relations that existed between the two. However, Manolin still visits Santiago against his parent's will. There is also person versus society conflict. This arises when the Manolin parents forbid the relationship between their son and the old man. Generally, in any society it is expected that good relationships are encouraged. This is especially because the relationship between Manolin and Santiago was meant for a good course.
There is also person versus nature conflict. This is evident when Santiago goes deep into the sea for eight days only for the marlin he had caught to be eaten by the sharks at sea. He suffered so much while struggling to get the marlin to the shore yet he did not manage to fight all the sharks in the sea. The author has also used internal conflicts. This is evident after Santiago catches the marlin. He intends to sell it and knows he will earn good money for it. However, he still thinks that the person who will eat it is not worth it because of the suffering he had gone through before catching it.
'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee is based on a white family living in Alabama. It is Scout Finch's and her brother, Jem family. Their father, Atticus is widowed and is a lawyer. They are well off. Scout and Jem make friends with another young boy, Dill who visits the town during the summer. Dill gains interest in a house across the street that belongs to the Radley's. The three join together and sneak into the Radley's property. Unfortunately, Jem loses his pants and they are mended to the fence. Immediately after, a fire breaks out in the neighborhood and someone throws a blanket on Jem's shoulders. He is convinced that it was Boo Radley who threw it at him. He tells this to his father. Later Atticus decides to represent a black man accused of raping a white woman. The Finches black cook invites the family to the church where they are warmly received.
During the trial, Atticus presents evidence that Tom Robinson is innocent but the white jury rules in favor of the complainant. Tom Robinson is wrongly convicted and he makes an effort to escape from prison but dies in a gun shot. Bob Ewell, the complainant's father is not content and is angered by the dismay of the evidence presented by Atticus in court. He swears to pay back. He attempts to break into the judge's abode to no success and to attack Tom's wife. Eventually, he attacks Jem and Scout on their way home from a Halloween party. Fortunately Boo Hardley rescues them and stabs Ewell and runs back to their house. It is then that Jem realizes that Boo is a good person. (Lee 2010)
Harper Lee has managed to use a different form of conflict in his work. Person versus person conflict is evident when Bob Ewell attacks Atticus's children because of the evident that their father presented during the trial in court. Person versus society conflict arises during the trial of Tom Robinson. Despite the fact that Atticus provided clear evidence indicating that the white lady had made advances at the defendant, the jury ruled in favor of the white lady. This societal conflict is also driven by the difference in races. This is also evident when Ewell tries to break into the judge's house.
There is also person versus nature conflict that arises when Tom Robinson is shot as he was escaping from prison. This conflict could have resulted from the innocence of Tom. He, therefore, felt that he had been wrongly judged. However, it was fate that he was shot because he was committing a crime by trying to escape from prison. There are also internal conflicts. For example, at the beginning of the novel, Jem disliked Boo because he had taken his pants. Towards the end, Boo rescues Jem and Scout from Ewell. It is then that Jem notes that he had misjudged Boo.
From the above analysis of the four books, it is evident that the authors have greatly used literary conflicts in their work. These conflicts are an indication of the happenings of in everyday's life. The four works are an indication that for the longest time, authors use literature to reflect the true image of the society. In 'A Farewell to Arms', the conflict is based on how people have to make choices between their personal commitments and their jobs. In 'The Great Gatsby', the major conflict is based on the fact that our past will always remain and can never be erased irrespective of the changes that have occurred in our lives. In 'The Old Man and the Sea', the major conflict is built on the fact that we should be content with what we earn in life. It is also important to be realistic in our aspirations. In 'To Kill a Mockingbird', the major conflict is built on the fact that we should not judge people who we know nothing about. After all, we can never tell what help these people can offer us in times of need. Therefore, the authors have offered useful teachings important in the course of living our everyday's life.