Conflict with nature, society, and the world at large

We've talked about conflict that is based on some kind of sustained relationship with an individual or group.

But another source of conflict is the surrounding environment.

  • For example, in Gary Paulson's Hatchet, a teenager is stranded in the Canadian wilderness with no idea how to survive.
  • There's no specific opposing character; the conflict is between the teenager and the wilderness as a whole.
  • However, the conflict with the wilderness manifests in a variety of confrontations, including with wolves, skunks, and a tornado.
  • In Jaws, a shark that terrorises a beachside town. The central relationship conflict is between the town's police chief and the shark, who are basically hunting each other. (Not exactly, because the shark doesn't have awareness of the sherriff, but functionally it's a nemesis-type relationship because it will only end when one or the other dies.)
  • On the other hand, in Unbroken, Louis Zamperini finds himself crashed in the Pacific ocean with too much sun, not enough water, and a whole pile of sharks. This conflict is environmental—it's not about one specific shark, it's about being stuck in the ocean, and the end of the conflict is either Louis escapes the ocean, or he dies there.

Environmental conflict is more than wilderness survival. For example:

  • A refugee struggles to find food, shelter, and safety in a foreign port.
  • A citizen struggles to express their independence in a crushing, conformist surveillance state.
  • A member of a minority group struggles to live their daily life while surrounding social and political institutions obstruct them.

Let's read and write about a couple of types of environmental conflict.