A Long Walk to Water

by Linda Sue Park

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What are five major conflicts in A Long Walk To Water and their reasons?

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In A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Parker, the reader follows the stories of two Sudanese children who live twenty-five years apart and who both face external and internal conflicts.

Because of the Sudanese Civil War, both of the protagonists face daily conflicts with the world around them.

1. Salva is on a trek to find his family, from whom he is separated because of the civil war. He faces external conflicts daily as he struggles to find food and stay safe from rebels, lions, and other forces of nature.

2. As part of Salva's journey, he also struggles internally with losing family members and friends along the way, and keeping hope that he will one day be reunited with his lost family.

3. Even after Salva moves to the US, his conflicts continue, as he must find his place in his new world and begin college. He learns to adapt to his new surroundings and life.

4. Nya is the other protagonist, and she also faces conflicts within the story. Like Salva, she battles external elements as she walks eight miles daily to retrieve water for her family.

5. Even though water is necessary to their survival, it is another source of conflict: the water is unclean, and Nya's younger sister Akeer becomes sick from drinking the contaminated water.

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A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park is rife with conflicts. Essentially every classic conflict structure is represented, from man vs. man to man vs. environment to man vs. self. Here are five major conflicts in the novel.

1. Salva vs. the Sudanese Civil War

The biggest source of conflict in Salva's part of the story is the civil war that is tearing apart his country. This war causes Salva to lose his home, his family, and almost (on more than one occasion) his life.

2. Nya vs. the Long Walk to Water

This is the biggest source of conflict for Nya. Nya's literal long walk to water is physically dangerous and draining and prevents her from other important activities, like going to school.

3. Salva vs. the Search for Family

Besides the physical danger, Salva's loss of family is the greatest danger posed by the war. Salva spends the entire novel losing people—his parents, his friend, and his uncle. His search resolves at the end of the novel when he is adopted and finally makes contact with his biological father many years later.

4. Nya vs. Akeer's Illness

Another consequence of the water shortage is the danger of drinking contaminated water. Akeer, Nya's little sister, becomes very ill from a waterborne illness, which causes a major source of conflict for Nya and her family until Akeer recovers.

5. Dinka vs. Nuer

Zooming out from the two protagonists, the lasting conflict between their tribes propels a variety of plot elements. This tribal conflict impacts both Nya and Salva. Ultimately, a small bridge is formed between the two tribes when Nya meets Salva (a Dinka) and recognizes his act of service to her Nuer village.

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In a novel like A Long Walk to Water, the reader is introduced to many conflicts throughout the story involving both the characters and the situations they encounter. I'll list five conflicts below that one could see as major steps in moving the plot forward:

  1. The violent civil war taking place in South Sudan. A young Salva is forced to flee from his village during gunfire while he is sitting in school. Because of the political climate during 1985, the story is set in motion for Salva, who leaves his family, his friends, and his village behind.
  2. The unpredictable and often dangerous setting. The characters are in constant conflict with their surroundings. For a great example, take when Salva loses his friend Marial to lions.
  3. The struggle to survive when surrounded by death and tragedy. Salva is devastated to lose his uncle to the group of soldiers. This death makes Salva question himself and his quest to find his family. With constant pressure and danger, the tragic events of the story put the characters in a place where they are forced to make decisions and propel the plot.
  4. A long way from home. Salva's return to Sudan is a major conflict in the story as well. Coupled with the conflict of the civil war, this makes journeying home difficult, even when he learns of his father still alive. The loneliness, the sadness, and the distance between where Salva is and where he wants to be is seen in many parts of the story.
  5. Obvious to the title, the lack of clean water. Just look at Nya's storyline. Not having access to clean water is a major conflict in the story and gives Salva and Nya's storylines a chance to connect. With clean water, Nya could go to school and learn and not spend her days constantly fetching water.

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