In both real life and in fiction, conflict describes an enduring struggle between two opposing forces. Whether you're watching a cartoon or reading a serious literary tome, conflict is a key component of plot. Writing an essay on conflict requires a focus, clarity, and an understanding of the different types of conflict presented in a story.

Identify the Type of Conflict

While most people think of conflict as a fight between two characters, it can be categorized as internal or external or both. Conflict can present itself in four primary ways: externally, as man versus man, man versus society, or man versus nature and internally, as man versus self, as exemplified by the tragic struggle of Shakespeare’s Hamlet trying to avenge his father’s murder.

Find Supporting Evidence

Whether you’re analyzing a piece of literature or a clash between two nations, you’ll first need to identity the two opposing forces that comprise your central argument, and then find evidence to support your claim. For example, if your central conflict is man versus nature – think Sebastian Junger’s “The Perfect Storm” – you’ll want to find specific examples of where the sea rises up against the sailors. As with any analytical essay, analyzing conflicts requires you to look for specific quotes, phrases or parts of dialogue that reinforce your position.

Draft Your Thesis

Once you've figured out your protagonist and antagonist and the type of conflict to address in your essay, narrow your focus and write a concise thesis statement that states the central conflict you plan to address. For example, If you’re analyzing “man versus society” in your essay, such as when Atticus Finch fights against a racist society in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” you could state, "In 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' Harper Lee uses Atticus Finch’s defense of Tom Robinson to both illustrate and combat the rampant racism that has infected his Southern town." Your thesis statement will provide you with a road map for the rest of your paper and will help you decide upon the main points of your paper. Your thesis should be the very last sentence in your introduction.

Start Writing

Once you’ve found your examples and written your thesis, write your first draft. Remember to start your essay with a “hook” – a question, a quote, or a statistic, for example that will introduce the conflict you’ll be analyzing. Start each body paragraph with a topic sentence that states a main point, and then support that point with three or four of your examples from your initial research. Repeat this process for each remaining body paragraph. Within the body of the paper, address whether the conflict was resolved, and how. In your conclusion, summarize your main points and restate -- but don’t repeat verbatim -- your thesis.