Identify the primary conflicts in Shogun.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One of the central conflicts in Clavell's work is the struggle for power.  The idea of power takes on different forms.  Toranaga needs Blackthorne's assistance in order to become the Shogun, and gain power.  Even before this, the struggle for power is something that is understood early.  He understands early on that Blackthorne must become Japanese  in order to help him accomplish his goal of power.  In this exists another conflict in the novel.  The cultural conflict between West and East is part of what makes the characterization of  Blackthorn so compelling.  He must "become" Japanese  in order to assist Toranaga to become Shogun.  Toranaga's understanding of Blackthorne's intelligence and insight helps him understand more about European interests in Japan and also helps him be able to counter the challenges of cultural difference.  It is through the conflicts of both the desire for power and the navigation of cultural difference where Blackthorne is deposited in this condition.  In both conflicts, the plot emerges and characterizations take place.


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