In "By the Waters of Babylon," what kind of conflict is described in the last full paragraph on page 45?

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

According to the message you sent me, you are asking about the paragraph that starts

I followed them, at a distance, waiting for what would happen. My heart was troubled about going east, yet I knew that I must go.

In this paragraph, I see two sorts of conflict.  There is an internal conflict within John as to whether he should go to the east.  However, there is also a conflict between John and nature.  The first of these is an internal conflict (man against himself) and the second is an external conflict.

The internal conflict is solved when the external conflict is resolved.  When John defeats "nature" (the panther) he takes that as a sign telling him how to resolve his internal conflict.

So, there are two conflicts.  If I had to pick one, I would say that the important conflict here is the internal one since the whole point of the external conflict is to decide the internal one.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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You would benefit from specifying which specific paragraph you are referring to, as everyone will have different editions of this short story or it will be in a different collection. However, I will refer to conflict in general in this excellent short story. Of course, when we think of conflict, we recognise there are two types: internal conflict, which is inside someone's mind, and external, which is in the outside world. Conflict of course is the greatest when it is both internal and external, and this is the main conflict we see in this short story. Consider the scenario - no one has ever gone to the Place of the Gods before, and so the narrator, John, is breaking so many taboos of his culture. At the same time he is facing internal conflict as he seeks to become a Priest and go through his initiation and external conflict as he faces so many challenges to actually get there. This passage contains examples of both:

It felt like ground underfoot; it did not burn me. It is not true what some of the tales say, that the ground there burns forever, for I have been there. Here and there were the marks and stains of the Great Burning, on the ruins, that is true. But they were old marks and old stains. It is not true either, what some of our priests say, that it is an island covered with fogs and enchantments. It is not. It is a great Dead Place - greater than any Dead Place we know.

Here we see John's internal conflict as he seeks to balance what he sees with what has been passed on to him but also his external conflict as he presses on to his goal, in spite of his fear and trepidation concerning all that he has heard from the story.

Hope this helps - this really is a very powerful story with so much conflict in it, so use this example to go and analyse other extracts.

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