How does the conflict between Goneril and King Lear contribute to the overall meaning of the work?

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that King Lear's relationship with Goneril initially begins with the same emptiness and hollowness that their bond comes to represent as the drama unfolds.  Goneril shares with Regan that their father was not as affectionate to them as he was to Cordelia:  "He always loved our sister most; and with what poor judgment he hath now cast her off appears too grossly."  It becomes clear that the conflict between Goneril and King Lear is rooted in a father's inability to love his child in a manner that shows sincerity and authenticity.  

This lack of authenticity is seen when Goneril flatters her father at the outset of the drama.  Goneril has no problem in speaking to her father with emptiness and hollowness.  This has been the state of their relationship.  The conflict that has underscored their bond is one of nothingness in terms of intimacy, masqueraded by her words of flattery.  This relationship helps to reflect the meaning of the work in its depiction of the fraudulent connections that exists between people, and members of the same family.  The frayed connection between Goneril and Lear is where their conflict is demonstrated.  It is this poor connection that helps to reflect the meaning experienced in multiple contexts in the drama.