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golden fractal
art courtesy of
Janet Preslar, FrActivity

Conflict and Setting


  • The primary "problem" or dilemma a character may have
  • Often the focus of both Escapist and Interpretive Literature
  • Person vs. Person
  • Person vs. Nature
    • Person vs. Natural Elements
    • Person vs. Person-made Elements
    • Person vs. Society
  • Person vs. Self

Person VS. Person

  • Conflict between two characters
  • Usually the major overt focus of a plot
  • Least important and most easily identifiable of the conflicts
  • Sometimes symbolic of deeper ironies

Person VS. Nature

  • Multiple conflicts concerning an individual in conflict with either more than one person or non-human elements. Character is in conflict with setting: society or the environment
  • Character versus society: ideals or behavior of one versus the ideals of a group
  • Character versus environment: struggle to survive forces of nature (weather, disease, fate) or Person-made environments (big city, locked room)
  • Often symbolic

Person VS. Self

  • Person divided internally over feelings about a situation...ambivalence
  • Usually the most important of the conflicts.
  • Often symbolized by other conflicts (i.e. Person vs. Person or nature)
  • You must explain two sides of internal dilemma
  • Often the focal point of character's experience
  • Can be useful in drawing out other thematic aspects
  • Often symbolic or ironic in nature
  • Be sure to clearly label the conflict to which you refer


  • Merely the TIME and PLACE a work takes place
  • Reflects attitude or ideals of characters
  • Reflects the plot twists
  • Reflects author's feelings about situation
  • May reflect conflict as well
  • Often symbolic in nature

© T. T. Eiland, 1998-2018
Last modified: April 8, 2018