What is the conflict in the book My Side of the Mountain?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The main conflict in “My Side of the Mountain ” is represented by the overriding theme of man versus nature. Sam Gribley is a city kid who runs away from his New York City home to the wilderness of the Catskill Mountains. Although he has read at least one...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

The main conflict in “My Side of the Mountain” is represented by the overriding theme of man versus nature. Sam Gribley is a city kid who runs away from his New York City home to the wilderness of the Catskill Mountains. Although he has read at least one library book on survival skills, he has never used these techniques in the woods and does not appear to have even camped out on his own. He had to learn how to prepare and eat a variety of wild foods. He had to figure out a good “home,” which ended up being a hollowed-out giant hemlock tree. He made his own clothes out of deer hide. He taught himself quite a lot in the year he spent on the mountain.

The case could also be made that the reason Sam went to the woods to begin with was because of a casual challenge by his father. We learn in the second chapter, “In Which I Get Started on This Venture,” that Sam’s father had once run away from home as a youngster in order to catch a ship to Singapore. But he chickened out and came back quickly. He laughed when Sam said he wanted to run away and live on the Gribley land in the Catskills. He said, “Sure, go try it. Every boy should try it.” But obviously, he didn’t think Sam would have the courage to do it. We could say the whole premise of this adventure was the friendly conflict between Sam and his father.

And the case could also be made that this was not only the story of Sam versus nature, but Sam versus civilization. He wanted to be on his own out there. He tried to hide whenever random people entered the woods, because he didn’t want to be found out. This didn’t work. He was found out. But we also get the impression that he may have been missing human contact after six months, even though he was surrounded by his animal “friends.” In the 16th chapter called “In Which Trouble Begins,” Sam decided to go to town on a Sunday, wearing his deerskin clothing. He got strange looks from the townspeople, of course. Soon afterward, newspaper articles appeared about a wild boy living in the woods. Did Sam go to town that day in order to be discovered? Maybe. This incident marked one of the turning points in the book. Sam versus civilization is yet another conflict here.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team