Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

by Rick Riordan
Start Free Trial

What is the main conflict in Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief?

The main conflict in Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is the external conflict between Percy and the mysterious, unknown villain who has stolen the master lightning bolt from the god Zeus. Furthermore, there is the internal conflict between Percy and his own identity, as he struggles to come to terms with his status as a demigod.

Expert Answers

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

The Lightning Thief is the first part of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, and is a soft fantasy narrative that deals with our modern world colliding with the world of ancient Greek gods. The protagonist, Percy Jackson, is involved in two primary conflicts. The first is external. Percy, who is revealed to be the forbidden demigod son of Poseidon, receives an oracle that commands him to search for the unidentified thief of Zeus's master lightning bolt. He is tasked with preventing a war between the gods. This quest takes him to many locations, including the very gate of Hades's realm itself. In the course of the quest, he has to reconsider both friends and enemies alike before finally uncovering the truth.

The second conflict is internal, and deals with Percy coming to terms with the nature of his identity. Percy is a misfit in many regards. Before he was aware of his status, he struggled in school due to ADHD and dyslexia. While these are revealed to be mere by-products of his demigod status, he suffers a greater identity crisis upon realizing that he is part of the contentious struggle between the gods. Siring offspring has been forbidden for the greater gods, like Poseidon, for a number of years. Percy must grow into himself and gain confidence and self-assurance before he can resolve the strife of the gods.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The main conflict in this novel is that Percy Jackson must find and return Zeus's stolen thunderbolt to avert a war among the gods that Zeus will start with Poseidon if his thunderbolt is not returned by the summer solstice.

Because these wars play out among humans—we find out that World War II was really a war between the gods—it is imperative for Percy to find the thunderbolt and find it fast.

Therefore, he goes to Los Angeles (where the entrance to the underworld is located), sure that Hades must have stolen the thunderbolt. When he gets there, he finds that he has been tricked. Hades does not have the thunderbolt, but now Percy has another problem: Hades believes Percy stole his helm of darkness. Hades has Percy's mother and won't give her back until Percy returns the helm of darkness. Percy faces two conflicts: finding and returning Zeus's bolt (and battling all the creatures that will try to prevent this) and likewise finding and returning the helm. Otherwise there will be a major war, and his mother will be trapped in the underworld. Percy, in other words, has his hands very full for a twelve-year-old.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Percy Jackson is a twelve-year old who hates his stepfather and loves his mother. He also finds out he is a demigod, half human and half god. The problems are endless for Percy which creates many conflicts. The main conflict is that Zeus's lightning bolt has been stolen, and Poseidon, Percy's father, is the suspect. Percy has to return the bolt before the Summer Solstice and has help from his friends, Grover, a satyr and Annabeth, daughter of Athena.

Percy and his mother are ambushed by a Minotaur, yet another conflict, and his mother is kidnapped and taken to the Underworld, Hades. Percy has to rescue his mother as well. To make matters worse, the gods are warring with each other creating even more conflict. Percy Jackson faces one conflict after another.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The primary conflict which drives the action of the novel is that Percy must find and return the stolen master bolt to Zeus, king of the gods.  He receives a hero's quest from the oracle at Camp Half-Blood that he must "go west, and face the god who has turned [...] find what was stolen, and see it safely returned" (141). 

As Percy accepts this quest and leaves to find Hades and the Underworld, he encounters many dangerous monsters and threats that attempt to deter him from reaching his goal.  Percy knows that the stakes are high for him to find and return the bolt, for if he fails at his task, Chiron predicts "western civilization turned into a battleground so big, it will make the Trojan War look like a water-balloon fight" (138).

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial