Literary Analysis: Understanding Internal Conflict”

If you have ever found yourself lost in a book, completely immersed in a character’s struggles, chances are you were witnessing a powerful internal conflict. Internal conflict, a psychological battle within a character, is a driving force behind many great works of literature.

Understanding how it shapes characters, plot, and theme can enhance your appreciation of literature and improve your own writing.

In this article, you will explore the definition of internal conflict in literature and discover examples of its use in classic and contemporary works. You will also learn how internal conflict shapes character development, how it contributes to plot and theme, and how to analyze its effectiveness.

By the end of this article, you will be equipped with the tools to identify internal conflict in your own reading and writing, and to appreciate its power in creating compelling stories.

Defining Internal Conflict in Literature

You’re probably wondering, “What exactly is internal conflict?”

Well, it’s when a character struggles with their own thoughts, feelings, or beliefs, creating tension within themselves. This type of conflict is often used in literature to add depth and complexity to characters, making them more relatable and human.

Internal conflict can manifest in different ways, such as a character’s struggle to make a decision, battling with their own morality, or trying to reconcile conflicting emotions. It can also be influenced by external factors such as societal expectations or personal relationships.

By exploring a character’s internal conflict, readers can gain insights into their motivations and values, making the story more engaging and meaningful.

Examples of Internal Conflict in Classic Literature

Examples of internal struggle can be found in classic literature through the complex characters and their emotional turmoil. One of the most well-known examples is Hamlet’s struggle with his own thoughts and actions in Shakespeare’s play, ‘Hamlet.’

Throughout the play, Hamlet grapples with his desire for revenge, his doubts about his father’s murder, and his own sanity. His internal conflict ultimately leads to his tragic downfall.

Another classic example of internal conflict can be found in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment.’ The protagonist, Raskolnikov, struggles with the morality of his actions after committing murder. He believes that he has the right to kill for the greater good, but he is haunted by guilt and plagued by his own conscience.

Raskolnikov’s internal turmoil is a major theme throughout the novel and serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of rationalizing immoral behavior. These examples demonstrate how internal conflict can be a powerful tool for writers to explore complex themes and create compelling characters.

How Internal Conflict Shapes Character Development

Experiencing inner turmoil is crucial in shaping a character’s growth and transformation throughout a story. As a reader, you’re able to witness the evolution of a character’s personality as they confront their internal demons.

This conflict can manifest in a variety of ways, such as a character’s struggle with their identity or their conflicting emotions towards another character. Internal conflict can also reveal a character’s flaws and vulnerabilities, making them more relatable and human.

By witnessing a character’s internal struggle, you’re able to understand their motivations and actions on a deeper level. This makes their character development more engaging and satisfying to follow as you witness their growth and transformation.

Overall, internal conflict is a powerful tool in literary analysis that can help readers understand the complexities of a character’s journey.

The Role of Internal Conflict in Plot and Theme

As a reader, it’s fascinating to see how a character’s inner struggles drive the plot and shape the overall themes of a story. Internal conflict adds depth and complexity to a character, making them more relatable and human. It also creates tension and suspense in the plot, as the character tries to resolve their inner turmoil.

Furthermore, internal conflict can reveal the underlying themes of a story. For example, a character struggling with their own morality can highlight the theme of good vs. evil. A character grappling with their identity can underscore the theme of self-discovery.

By exploring a character’s internal struggles, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the story’s message and meaning.

Overall, internal conflict is a crucial element in both character development and the overall structure of a story.

Analyzing the Effectiveness of Internal Conflict in Literature

Delving into the impact of characters’ internal struggles on the story’s depth and relatability can be a captivating way to analyze literature. When analyzing the effectiveness of internal conflict in literature, it’s important to consider how the character’s inner turmoil contributes to the plot and theme.

Does the conflict drive the story forward or hinder the character’s growth? Does it add complexity to the character’s motivations and actions? These questions can help readers understand the significance of the internal conflict and its impact on the story as a whole.

One way to analyze the effectiveness of internal conflict in literature is to examine the character’s development throughout the story. Does the character experience growth or change as a result of their internal struggle? Does their conflict lead to self-discovery or a newfound understanding of their place in the world?

Additionally, analyzing the language and imagery used to portray the internal conflict can provide insight into the character’s thoughts and emotions. By analyzing the effectiveness of internal conflict in literature, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the story’s themes and the characters’ motivations, ultimately enhancing their appreciation of the work.

Identifying Internal Conflict in Contemporary Works

You can easily identify when characters in contemporary works are struggling with their inner thoughts and emotions. One way to do this is to pay attention to the character’s actions and reactions. For example, if a character is constantly avoiding a certain situation or person, it could be a sign that they’re dealing with some internal conflict.

Additionally, if a character is experiencing mood swings or sudden changes in behavior, it could be a sign that they’re struggling with their emotions.

Another way to identify internal conflict in contemporary works is to look for moments of introspection or self-reflection. Many authors use inner monologues or stream of consciousness writing to give readers insight into a character’s thoughts and feelings. By paying attention to these moments, you can gain a deeper understanding of the character’s internal struggles and how they’re impacting their actions and decisions.

Overall, identifying internal conflict in contemporary works can help you better appreciate the complexity of the characters and the themes explored in the literature.

Using Internal Conflict to Enhance Your Own Writing

If you want to improve your writing, try considering the struggles your characters may face within themselves, and use this to add depth and complexity to your storytelling. Internal conflict, or the emotional turmoil a character experiences within themselves, is a powerful tool that can help you create more relatable and interesting characters.

By understanding their past traumas, moral dilemmas, and inner demons, you can create a more complex and multi-dimensional character that readers can relate to.

Using internal conflict can also help you create a more engaging plot. By placing your character in situations that challenge their beliefs, values, and morals, you can create a more compelling story that keeps readers invested.

Whether it’s a love triangle, a moral dilemma, or a struggle with addiction, internal conflict can add tension and drama to your story, making it more memorable and impactful.

So, if you’re looking to enhance your writing, take some time to think about the internal struggles your characters may face, and use this to create a more compelling and relatable story.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does external conflict differ from internal conflict in literature?

When it comes to conflicts in literature, there are two main types: internal and external.

External conflicts are those that happen between the protagonist and an external force, such as another character, society, or nature.

Internal conflicts, on the other hand, happen within the protagonist’s mind or emotions. These conflicts are often more subtle and complex, as they involve the character’s beliefs, values, and desires.

Unlike external conflicts, internal conflicts are not always visible to other characters in the story. They can drive a character’s actions and decisions, and ultimately shape the outcome of the plot.

Understanding the differences between internal and external conflicts is essential for analyzing the themes and character development in literature.

Can internal conflict be the sole driving force of a plot?

You might think that internal conflict can be the sole driving force of a plot, since a character’s inner turmoil can be just as compelling as any external obstacle. After all, the struggle to reconcile conflicting desires, beliefs, or emotions can produce a lot of tension, suspense, and character development.

However, it’s important to remember that internal conflict alone may not sustain a plot without some external events or consequences that force the character to act or change. Without some kind of external pressure, the character might remain stuck in their own thoughts and feelings, rather than taking action or facing consequences that drive the story forward.

Therefore, while internal conflict can certainly be a powerful element of plot, it often needs to be complemented by some external conflict in order to create a complete and engaging narrative.

Are there any common themes or motifs associated with internal conflict in literature?

When it comes to internal conflict in literature, there are definitely some common themes and motifs that tend to arise.

For one, many stories that feature internal conflict often deal with themes of identity and self-discovery. Characters may struggle with understanding who they are or what they want in life, leading to a great deal of internal turmoil.

Additionally, stories with internal conflict often explore themes of morality and ethics, as characters may struggle with difficult decisions or conflicting values.

Finally, many stories with internal conflict also deal with the idea of transformation and change, as characters grapple with their inner demons and emerge as changed individuals.

Overall, these themes and motifs help to make internal conflict a rich and complex subject in literature.

How does an author effectively convey a character’s internal conflict to readers?

To effectively convey a character’s internal conflict to readers, you need to show, not tell. This means using descriptive language to portray the character’s thoughts, emotions, and actions in a way that allows the reader to understand their inner turmoil.

You can use dialogue, imagery, and symbolism to reveal the character’s internal struggle, as well as their interactions with other characters and their environment. It’s important to avoid being too obvious or heavy-handed in your approach, instead allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions about the character’s conflict.

By doing so, you create a more nuanced and engaging reading experience that encourages readers to empathize with the character and invest in their journey.

Is there a difference in the way internal conflict is portrayed in different genres of literature?

When it comes to internal conflict, different genres of literature may portray it in varying ways.

For example, in a romance novel, the internal conflict may revolve around the protagonist’s feelings for two different love interests.

In a mystery novel, the internal conflict may center on the protagonist’s struggle to solve a crime while battling personal demons.

In a coming-of-age story, the internal conflict may be the protagonist’s struggle to find their identity and place in the world.

In each genre, the internal conflict will be portrayed differently, but the key is for the author to effectively convey the character’s struggle to the reader, so they can empathize and understand the character’s journey.


So now that you’ve gained a deeper understanding of internal conflict in literature, you can approach your own writing with a new perspective. You can use internal conflict to add depth to your characters, create tension in your plot, and explore themes in a more nuanced way.

By identifying internal conflicts in contemporary works and analyzing the effectiveness of internal conflict in classic literature, you can better understand how to use this literary technique in your own writing.

With practice, you can master the art of creating compelling internal conflicts that will keep your readers engaged and invested in your story. So go forth and explore the complexities of the human psyche through the power of internal conflict in your writing.

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