What are the internal and external conflicts in the poem "The Mercy"?

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Michael Ugulini | (Level 3) Educator

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The internal conflicts in the poem "The Mercy" by Philip Levine include the mother's uneasiness of going to a new continent to begin a new way of life. She has to learn a new culture and she is being awakened to new things in life. For example, she has to learn something as simple as learning to eat a bananaa and an orange for the first time.

Another internal conflict is the possible fear and apprehension of having to learn a new language - English - or at the very least new words, which she is unfamiliar with, so she can function in American society. Another internal conflict is the mother praying that she would find her family in New York City.

An external conflict in the poem is the ordeal of the long autumn voyage to Ellis Island from overseas. This voyage had its own inherent dangers in it and was probably a very tense time for the mother.


Another external conflict was the smallpox that ravaged the ship as it made its way to America. Passengers and crew alike were struck with the disease, which caused the ship to be quarantined.

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