Cranes Questions and Answers
by Hwang Sun-Won

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What is the conflict in "Cranes"? (Man versus Man, Man versus Nature, etc.)

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Jonathan Beutlich, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There is certainly a wider conflict going on in the background of this story, and that conflict deals with the Korean war and how villages along the 38th parallel were affected. That is one conflict; however, I would not call it the main conflict.

There is also man vs. man conflict between Songsam and Tokchae. Songsam fights for one side, and Tokchae fights for the other. This makes the two characters enemy combatants, and the story is about Songsam escorting Tokchae, who is now a prisoner. The two characters were former childhood friends, and there is definitely tension between the two characters—however, I would hesitate to put too much emphasis on a man vs. man conflict between these two men. The reason for that is Tokchae doesn't engage in fighting against Songsam physically or even verbally.

Songsam demands to know how many people Tokchae killed and why he didn't run away from the conflict like Songsam did. Tokchae calmly explains that he couldn't bring himself to leave his father...

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iloveastrid | Student

the internal conflict is between letting go of a childhood friend or aressting him and him getting killed.

janelle-m9 | Student

The conflict in Cranes would be man vs. society.  During the Korean War, Tokchae was captured because he was vice president of the Farmers’ Communist League.  He became a part of the league because he was a proud farmer, and could not run away and hide because his wife was carrying his baby.  Songsam, Tokchae's childhood friend, is the police officer in charge of escorting Tokchae.  Due to the fact that Tokchae and Songsam are on different sides, they are not supposed to be friendly to each other.  This is dictated by their roles in society.  However, Songsam and Tokchae are in a conflict with their societal roles when Songsam offers to let Tokchae escape to freedom.  He would need to break his role as a policeman in order to do so.