Explain what an internal conflict is from the Langston Hughes' story, "Thank You, M'am."

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shake99's profile pic

shake99 | Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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In the Langston Hughes’ short story “Thank You, M’am,” the internal conflict isn’t blatantly obvious. It must be inferred from the actions and thoughts of the characters. The external conflict is easy to find—it happens right away when the boy, Roger, attempts to steal Mrs. Jones’ purse.

The internal conflict is demonstrated later in the story when Roger has been dragged to Mrs. Jones’ apartment. Once they get there, Roger is surprised to find that Mrs. Jones, instead of calling the police to report his attempted theft, has behaved with kindness toward him. She speaks to him warmly and cooks for him. This begins to affect Roger in an important way, and Roger, who initially just wanted to rob Mrs. Jones, begins to want to earn her trust, as we see in the following passage:

But the boy took care to sit on the far side of the room where he thought she could easily see him out of the corner of her eye, if she wanted to. He did not trust the woman not to trust him. And he did not want to be mistrusted now.

From the above passage we see that the boy is worried about whether or not Mrs. Jones trusts him. This concern about what someone else thinks about him is internal conflict, because it is an issue he is dealing with within himself, and it is causing him some anxiety. It cannot be external conflict because it is not happening in the form of a disagreement, argument, or fight with something else outside of Roger’s person.

janfrake's profile pic

janfrake | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

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Internal conflict is a battle within oneself as to the right and wrong solution to a problem or decision to act.