Identify a conflict between individual and nature in Paulsen's The Crossing.

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

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In The Crossing, Manny's condition in the world represents the conflict between the individual and the natural world.  Manny is small, poor, and without much in way of physical resources. This condition is what makes him struggle in the natural world around him.  On one hand, he lacks the physicality to swiftly cross the "muddy trickle" of the Rio Grande.  When Manny tries to cross it on his own, his lack of physical prowess is what makes him easy prey for the "street wolves."  The natural conditions of both the river and the exploitation that takes place in the river is one set of obstacles that Manny must confront.  This reflects a conflict between the individual and nature.

In a similar conflict, Robert displays a cosmology that reflects how there is a cruel and adversarial relationship between the individual and the natural world.  This becomes clear in the bull fighting sequence.  Robert envisions the bull as an individual that is poised to do battle with the natural elements, conditions that reflect how the individual bull only stands "for blood, for the fight...[the] death wait."  Such a condition is reflected in the ending, when the street wolves confront Manny and Robert.  This setting is one in which Robert channels the image of the bull, as he, himself, becomes the element that must confront the natural world and die in the process.  The natural elements, in the form of the street wolves, challenge the individual.  Robert's death is reflective of the demise of the bull and illuminates the conflict between the individual and the natural world.  

The predatory instincts that frame the narrative help to illuminate the individual versus natural world conflict. This antagonism is one in which there is a predator and prey.  One sees this throughout the narrative in examples such as the monkey and the snake.  In particular, this conflict is seen in the need to "take care...that a snake does not swallow."  It is also evident in the street wolves, described as elements of the natural world that possess "large brown eyes [and] long lashes."  These images brings out how the natural world positions itself against the individual. Manny, himself, endures such challenges with how he is easily manipulated by the elements of the world.  Manny understands that the natural conditions that are posited against him are overwhelming.  "I am too small," he says simply, "soon the hawks will get me."  In this paradigm, it becomes clear that the individual is challenged by the natural elements.  The narrative is framed as one in which the individual must endure and struggle to find triumph against the natural world.  

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