6 Types of Conflicts in Literature With Examples

Conflict is one of the major elements of stories and novels. In all narratives, conflict arises between different characters. It could be the different nature of the people, differences of opinion or thinking or creeds, or it could be between a man and his nature, etc. There are six major types of conflicts as follows.

 Character vs. Self /Addictions

In this type of conflict, the character comes into conflict with his/her own self. This could be the difference of nature, or self-contradiction or even addiction when the character in question has to go through suffering to forsake that addiction. This addiction could be of a drug, or a person or even a place. The important point about this type of conflict is that it occurs in the mind. Therefore, it is also called a mental conflict.

  1. The first example is the character of Mrs. Dubose in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. She takes to morphine to kill her pains, while Jem tries to read to her to help her give up this addiction.
  2. Sherman Alexie, a Spokane youth of just 14, bears alcoholic parents, causing mental conflict to himself to understand the pain of the people living around him. It occurs in his narrative, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.
  3. Stephen King’s novel, The Shining, shows this conflict in Jack, who forsakes alcohol but then reverts to it during his visit to a hotel.
  4. Choke by Chuck Palahniuk also shows sex addiction of Victor and the ensuing conflict over how to meet the requirement of this addiction.

Character vs. The antagonist or Other Characters

This conflict is the ancient conflict in which a protagonist and an antagonist come into conflict with each other, representing evil and good. The antagonist could be the second major character or not-so-important character, a man, a child, a woman or even a neutral gender. Some examples are as follows.

  1. Tess of d’Urberville by Thomas Hardy shows the conflict between a woman and a man twice. Tess comes into conflict with Alec and then with Angel Clare.
  2. Hamlet by Shakespeare shows this conflict between Hamlet and Claudius, Hamlet and Gertrude, and Hamlet and Laertes.
  3. Julius Caesar by Shakespeare shows this conflict between Caesar and senators led by Brutus, and then between Mark Antony and those senators.
  4. Animal Farm by George Orwell shows this conflict between man and animals and then animals and other animals.

 Character vs. Nature / Natural Disaster

Sometimes there is a conflict between man and nature. The main character or other characters find themselves having conflicts with the natural forces such as weather or some other calamity. This calamity could be a disease, an epidemic, a flood, an earthquake etc.

  1. The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway show this conflict between Santiago and the sea and then Santiago and the sharks.
  2. The Fault in our Stars by John Green shows this between Hazel and August and the disease of cancer.
  3. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston shows this between Tea Cake and the flood as well as Tea Cake and rabies, a disease.
  4. Night by Elie Wiesel shows this conflict between Elie and the freezing weather.

Character vs. Supernatural / Paranormal

This conflict occurs between the main character and the supernatural forces or paranormal creatures such as gods, spirits, ghosts, or heavenly bodies.

  1. Odyssey by Homer shows this conflict between Odysseus and Poseidon as well as several other such supernatural bodies or forces.
  2. moby dick by Herman Melville shows this conflict between Ishmael and fate.
  3. Dracula by Bram Stoker shows this conflict between Jonathan Harker, Van Helsing and Mina Murray on the one hand, and count Dracula and vampires on the other.

 Character vs. Technology / Machines

This conflict takes place between man and technology or the main character and some machine. It mostly occurs in modern science fiction, but novels before the 21st century also show this conflict.

  1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley shows this conflict between Victor and the monster.
  2. If I Forget Thee, Oh Earth by Arthur C. Clark shows this conflict between Marvin and nuclear weapons.
  3. 1984 by George Orwell shows this conflict between Winston and telescreens and between the people and the transmission machines installed in the houses.
  4. The War of the World by H. G. Wells shows the conflict between men and the Martians.

 Character vs. Society / Social Norms

This type of conflict occurs when a person comes into conflict with society. He faces the dilemma of confronting the entire social fabric through violation of the social norms set long time ago.

  1. Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy shows this conflict between her father and the society and between her and the social setup of that time.
  2. Judge the Obscure by Thomas Hardy also shows the same conflict Jude faces in that he violates a social law of marrying his cousin.
  3. The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne shows this conflict between Hester Prynne and the society of that time that she becomes a pariah in this conflict.
  4. “Araby” by James Joyce shows this conflict between the boy and the society as he does not have enough money to buy a gift for his beloved.