External Conflict Examples

External Conflict

In literature, characters experience conflict, which is main element of the plot. Characters can experience external conflict or internal conflict.

Examples of External Conflict:

External conflict is when the character encounters a problem that is not within him- or herself. The character is in conflict with someone or something that is in the world.

External conflict can be categorized in several different ways:

  • Man vs. Man-the character is in conflict with another person in the story.
  • Man vs. Society-the character faces conflict due to some type of societal norm that is in conflict with his/her beliefs or actions
  • Man vs. Nature-the character faces trials due to natural forces

Some scholars have added Man vs. Technology to these categories of external conflict. Man vs. technology would be when a character is battling a technological enemy (i.e. robot, smart computer).

Examples of External Conflict from Literature:

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout experiences external conflict when the racism that is present in Maycomb, Alabama comes into conflict with her beliefs and the beliefs that her father Atticus teaches her.

In Romeo and Juliet, Romeo finds himself in an external conflict with Juliet's cousin Tybalt. He kills Tybalt, leading to additional conflict as Juliet's family sees him as a murderer.

In the Harry Potter series, Harry faces external conflicts with Voldemort and the Death Eaters.

In The Outsiders, Ponyboy and his friends face external conflicts with Bob and the other "socs," but they also face societal conflicts due to the way they are viewed as "greasers."

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Literary Terms Examples