In literature, conflict is a significant literary device. A story cannot progress without conflict. It works as friction to make it more interesting and offers an edge to the story. Conflict provides a profound meaning to the story, presenting all the strengths, values, and weaknesses of the characters. In this article, we are going to read about six different types of conflict in literature (Stories).

Person Vs Person

Person versus person is the most common conflict. The objective of the protagonist is in objection to another main character or the antagonist. Often this other person is an antagonist who is determined to not let the protagonist succeed in their goal. Or it could also be another primary character whose perspective about life or something specific is completely against the viewpoint of the protagonist. One of the examples for the later scenarios could be the relationship between Harry Potter and Dumbledore. Despite knowing a lot about Harry and his past, Dumbledore was fixed to not let him know anything. That is also a kind of a man vs. man conflict however, the objective of Dumbledore was just to protect Harry, which for Harry was an obstacle as his motive was to know everything and defeat Lord Voldemort.

Six Different Types of Conflict in Literature (Stories)
Six Different Types of Conflict in Literature (Stories)

Person Vs Society

Man versus conflict is a classic external conflict where the main character is fighting against societal norms. The beliefs or values of the character are not similar to what seemed to be normal, acceptable, and conventional for society. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee deals with Atticus Finch struggling with society to achieve justice for Tom Robinson. Except for Atticus, everyone is eager to punish Tom based on the color of his skin.

Person Vs Nature

In this scenario, the person or the protagonist is fighting against natural elements such as animals, weather, or climate change. The primary message of narratives presenting this kind of conflict is the resilience of the human spirit. An excellent example of this conflict is The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemmingway. The old lone man is struggling in the Gulf Stream with a giant marlin. Another classic is Moby Dick by Herman Melville. And, if you are looking for something more recent, then Katrina Leno’s Summer of Salt would be a great read. A devastating flood will give rise to the question of whether Georgina will save her sister or not.

Six Different Types of Conflict in Literature (Stories)
Six Different Types of Conflict in Literature (Stories)

Person Vs Technology

One of the common tropes of the present day in science fiction is person versus technology. It is when human develops technology whose purpose is supposed to be benevolent however it turns to be sentient and begins to outsmart humans. After the creation of the technology, the writer must exhibit a dystopian world, and conclude the novel with an existential question. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a classic example of this conflict.

Person Vs Supernatural

In this conflict, the main character is fighting against a supernatural force such as aliens, gods, dreams, or something that is beyond human comprehension. These supernatural forces are powerful and function against the laws of nature. This is one of the most common conflicts to base your narrative on, as it has been written for millennia and they are going to sustain. Person vs. supernatural conflict is applicable in sci-fi, paranormal, and fantasy genres. Stephen King’s The Shining is a great example of the person vs. supernatural. Although this dynamic goes back to the old classic period of Homer’s Odyssey.

Six Different Types of Conflict in Literature (Stories)
Six Different Types of Conflict in Literature (Stories)

Person Vs Self

The narrative presenting character vs. self-conflict deals with internal conflict. It often happens that the protagonist is suffering from a situation where they are struggling to discern what is wrong and what is right. Or perhaps, they know what is best for them; however, that would cause problems for others that cause a conflict within. One of the more profound scenarios is when the protagonist comes off as an antagonist when what they had to deal with in their past. These characters struggle with trusting others, self-acceptance, and moving on from the past. All the other dynamics are external conflicts. In Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, Javert plays the role of a justice-driven human and yet thwarts Jean Valjean’s attempts at mercy and redemption. Another classic example is Hamlet’s iconic line “To be or not be”.

Also Read: Different Types of Characters In a Story or Literature, To Give Different Layers To a Story