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Man vs. Society Conflict: Definition & Examples

Man vs. Society Conflict: Definition & Examples
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kimberly McLaughlin

Kimberly has taught Middle School Language Arts for 9 years and has a Master's Degree in Secondary Education.

In this lesson, you will learn the definition of the literary conflict man versus society and explore some examples, both historical and literary, to help you further understand this concept.

Man vs. Society Conflict Defined

Have you ever felt like the world is against you? Or that no one understands your side of the story? This is exactly how a protagonist feels when he or she has a conflict with society.

When you are reading a piece of literature or watching a movie and the main conflict is a character going against society, that is a man versus society conflict. The definition of this kind of conflict is when a protagonist has a strong belief against the majority of the community or surroundings and decides to act on it. Since this type of conflict is between a character and an outside group, it is classified as an external conflict. This character usually goes against the grain.

There are specific issues that can be used when creating a man versus society conflict. Racism, segregation, religious beliefs, environmental issues, being wrongly accused of something, and being ousted from society are all examples of how someone can come into conflict with his or her community. One against many is also a good way to look at it.

There are plenty of real life situations that are great examples of this kind of conflict. One of these examples famously included Rosa Parks and the fact that she stood up against segregation. Rosa Parks was a very important role player in the movement against segregation in the United States.

Examples of Man vs. Society in Literature

You have most likely seen and read many examples of this kind of conflict, but you may not have realized what it is called. A good example of man versus society conflict is in a widely popular novel titled The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Huck, the main character, struggles with his oppositions with society. He doesn't want to conform to the way of living that seems to be acceptable, and he also has a problem with how his friend, who is African-American, is treated.

When they run away, Huck struggles with returning to society and protecting his friend. This is an example of man versus society conflict because this character has strong feelings and beliefs that go against the norm in his society. He struggles with this conflict throughout most of the novel. Huck wants to protect his friend Jim, which goes against what many others in his community feel.

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