Understanding Conflict: Lesson Nine

Part One: What questions about conflict will look like on the GED® Exam

Before you take the exam, let us show you what questions about conflict might look like in a test setting. Then, when you come across a question like this on the exam, you will think, “ah yes, this question is about conflict!” Knowing WHAT questions look like will take away your anxieties and increase your knowledge base.

Examples of conflict questions might look like….

  • Which of the statements below best describes the main source of conflict in the passage?
  • In the passage, the main character is battling which of the following?

Part Two: Basic information about Conflict

Throughout the GED® Reading Language Arts Exam, you will be asked to read different texts. In these texts, you might notice that the characters enter into a series of events. These events are known as “plot details”. Plot is the storyline that you are actually reading, including all major and minor events. And the details of this plot are the things that are actually happening to the characters.

Inevitably the series of events will lead to a conflict that the characters will have to overcome.  Sometimes the problem could be silly, or other times dangerous. There is no one way that the conflict will look. Each piece of literature will have different conflicts.

Conflict can occur in four forms:

  1. Character vs. Himself

Here, the character is conflicting with himself/herself. Their biggest battle is internal, or mental.

  1. Character vs. Society

Here, the character is conflicting with their community, society, family, or any other form of society.

  1. Character vs. Nature

Here, the character is conflicting with nature, or outside forces. This is typically a battle for survival.

  1. Character vs. Character

This battle pins one or more characters against one or more other characters.

As you read about these characters overcoming their problems, you will be responsible for determining and inferring why the characters are taking their actions to remedy the conflict. Have you ever heard the phrase “take a walk in their shoes”? This is exactly what you want to do when identifying conflict.

Part Three: Practice Questions

1. Read the excerpt from “The Call of the Wild,” by Jack London.

“At a particularly bad spot, where a ledge of barely submerged rocks jutted out into the river, Hans cast off the rope, and, while Thornton poled the boat out into the stream, ran down the bank with the end in his hand to snub the boat when it had cleared the ledge. This it did, and was flying down-stream in a current as swift as a mill-race, when Hans checked it with the rope and checked too suddenly. The boat flirted over and snubbed in to the bank bottom up, while Thornton, flung sheer out of it, was carried down-stream toward the worst part of the rapids, a stretch of wild water in which no swimmer could live.”

In the passage, the two men:

A. are battling the difficulties of a rapid river
B. seem to have an on-going issue with one another
C. are brothers who can’t seem to get along

Answer:A. are battling the difficulties of a rapid river

2. On April 3, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, made a speech in Memphis, known as “I’ve been to the mountaintop.”

Read an excerpt below from this speech, then answer the question.

“Secondly, let us keep the issues where they are. The issue is injustice. The issue is the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants, who happen to be sanitation workers. Now, we’ve got to keep attention on that. That’s always the problem with a little violence. You know what happened the other day, and the press dealt only with the window-breaking. I read the articles. They very seldom got around to mentioning the fact that one thousand, three hundred sanitation workers were on strike, and that Memphis is not being fair to them, and that Mayor Loeb is in dire need of a doctor. They didn’t get around to that.”

The conflict in the speech can best be described as:

A. Man vs. Nature
B. Man vs. Society
C. Man vs. Himself