How Literary Elements Affect the Central Conflict of a Text

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  • 0:05 What Makes a Story?
  • 1:28 Character
  • 2:26 Plot
  • 3:18 Setting
  • 4:40 Theme
  • 5:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

A story's conflict has an enormous impact on the literary elements. Read this lesson to discover how to analyze those impacts, specifically on character, setting, theme and plot.

What Makes a Story?

Think about your favorite children's books when you were young. Or even the more recent epic tales of Harry Potter or The Hunger Games. What makes these works so entertaining? What makes a story a story?

The answer is the literary elements, which are the components of a literary work. The setting, plot, characters, and theme are all examples of literary elements. Every story needs these elements in order to be entertaining and intriguing.

Arguably the most important literary element is conflict, which is the struggle between two forces. Without conflict, every story would be very boring. Who would Harry Potter be without Voldemort in the Harry Potter series? Or Katniss without President Snow in The Hunger Games series? The conflict between two characters is what makes these stories so compelling.

There are two types of conflict: external and internal. External conflict is between two characters or between a character and a natural force. The example of Harry Potter and Voldemort is an external conflict between two characters. Internal conflict occurs within one character. An example of an internal struggle is Harry trying to decide if he should sacrifice his life to end Voldemort's or Katniss choosing which man she loves.

So what connection exists between the literary elements in a story and the conflict?

Character

Perhaps the most easily recognizable literary element is the character, which is a person, animal, or figure featured in a story. Without characters a story simply can't exist.

In addition, characters are the reason you have conflict. Even in real life, people clash. There's conflict in your own life between you and other people, most likely your family (especially younger siblings). Stories are interesting because we can relate to the characters having conflict.

Most stories have both external and internal conflict, both of which need characters in order to exist. Every story will have a protagonist, or the good guy, and an antagonist, who is the bad guy. The main conflict is then a struggle between these two characters. Returning to our earlier examples, Harry Potter is the protagonist of his story and Voldemort is the antagonist. Furthermore, Katniss is the protagonist to President Snow's antagonist.

Plot

The next literary element is the plot, which is the series of events in a story. Here are the five parts of the plot in the order in which they occur.

  • Exposition - introduces the characters, setting, and conflict
  • Rising action - builds up suspense
  • Climax - turning point in the story
  • Falling action - the suspense lessens and the story is approaching the end
  • Resolution - the conflict is resolved and loose ends are tied

The conflict plays a role in each of those five parts. It is introduced in the exposition and causes the suspense in the rising action. The two forces struggling will finally meet in the climax. During the falling action and resolution the conflict will finally be resolved.

Overall, conflict and plot are completely intertwined.

Setting

Setting is the time, place, and social situation in which a story takes place. The time consists of when (year, month, date, etc.), and place is the location. Social situation is any important event occurring in society while the story is taking place.

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