What is the conflict in Gary Schmidt's Okay for Now?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The conflict in a story is the "struggle between two opposing forces," and those forces are usually the protagonist and the antagonist (Literary Devices, "Conflict"). Since a conflict is literally a battle or a struggle, we can easily describe conflicts as something vs. something else. There are four major conflicts found in literature: character vs. character, character vs. society, character vs. nature, and character vs. self.

In Gary Schmidt's novel Okay for Now, the greatest major conflict is that between the protagonist Doug Swieteck and his abusive father, which we can describe as character vs. character. Doug suffers from many conflicts in the novel, but all other conflicts stem from thisĀ poor relationship with his father. For example, as a result of his father's abusiveness and poor example as a role model, Doug also experiences other conflicts with his brother Lucas, who is as abusive as their father. Doug even suffers conflicts with society as a result of having an unstable family. For example, when Spicer's Deli is burgled, police suspect Lucas since they are new in town, making Doug feel like, as Lil phrases it, quoting Mrs. Merriam, "a hoodlum in training" (p. 95). Another way in which Doug struggles against society is his inability to read, which is also a result of his unstable family. However, his English teacher starts coaching Doug in reading, and he proves to be a very fast learner.