Understanding Conflict in Literature: Types and Examples

Types of Conflict in Literature

Conflict is a fundamental element of storytelling in literature, driving the plot and creating tension and suspense. It introduces obstacles and challenges that characters must overcome, shaping their development and the overall narrative. In literature, different types of conflict are explored to engage readers and explore various themes and ideas. Here are some common types of conflict found in literature.

1. Man vs. Self

This type of conflict, also known as internal conflict, occurs within a character’s mind. It involves a struggle between the protagonist’s thoughts, emotions, desires, or moral dilemmas. The character may grapple with difficult decisions, conflicting values, or inner demons. Man vs. self conflict often focuses on the internal journey of the character, as they seek resolution or self-discovery.

2. Man vs. Man

Man vs. man conflict, also referred to as interpersonal conflict, involves a direct clash between two or more characters. It can be a battle of physical strength, wits, or opposing ideologies. The conflict may arise from differing goals, personal conflicts, or competition. Man vs. man conflict often creates intense drama and drives the narrative through confrontations and rivalries.

3. Man vs. Society

In man vs. society conflict, the protagonist faces opposition or challenges from the larger social or cultural context they inhabit. This conflict explores the struggle between an individual and societal norms, expectations, or injustices. The character may question or challenge societal conventions, face discrimination, or fight against oppressive systems. Man vs. society conflict raises important social and moral issues within the narrative.

4. Man vs. Nature

Man vs. nature conflict revolves around the protagonist’s struggle against the forces of nature. It may involve surviving harsh environments, battling natural disasters, or confronting dangerous creatures. This type of conflict highlights humanity’s vulnerability and resilience in the face of the natural world’s power. Man vs. nature conflict often explores themes of survival, the relationship between humans and the environment, and the unpredictability of nature.

5. Man vs. Supernatural

Man vs. supernatural conflict involves the protagonist’s encounter with supernatural or paranormal elements. It may include conflicts with ghosts, monsters, mythical creatures, or supernatural powers. This conflict delves into themes of fear, the unknown, and the boundaries between reality and the supernatural. Man vs. supernatural conflict is commonly found in fantasy, horror, and supernatural genres.

6. Man vs. Technology

Man vs. technology conflict explores the consequences of human interaction with advanced technology or artificial intelligence. It delves into the ethical dilemmas, potential dangers, and loss of control that can arise from the reliance on technology. This conflict often examines themes of human identity, the impact of technology on society, and the boundaries between humanity and machines.


The various types of conflict in literature provide depth, tension, and thematic exploration within stories. Each type of conflict presents unique challenges and allows for the examination of different aspects of human experience, relationships, and societal dynamics. Through the exploration of these conflicts, literature offers insights into the complexities of the human condition and invites readers to reflect on universal themes and ideas.