What is the main conflict in “The Moose and the Sparrow” by Hugh Garner?

The main conflict in “The Moose and the Sparrow” is between Moose and Cecil. The conflict type is person versus person. Because they embody two different personality types, the conflict can also be analyzed as physical strength against intellect.

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Hugh Garner’s story “The Moose and the Sparrow” presents a conflict between Moose and Cecil, two men who work in a lumber camp. Because Moose is Cecil’s supervisor, Cecil—who is very inexperienced—is expected to follow his orders. The story is told by another character, Anderson, who also worked at the camp and is remembering the events years later.

Throughout the summer that Cecil works at the camp, Moose becomes increasingly hostile to the younger man. Although it initially seems that he is justified in his criticism, as Cecil makes numerous mistakes, it soon seems to Anderson that Moose—a permanent employee—is resentful of Cecil because the younger man is headed for college after his summer job is over.

The conflict between the men escalates into bullying and sadism. It appears that the relationship is highly uneven, with Moose being the dominant one. He is not only the boss but physically larger and stronger than Cecil, who does his best to remain calm and not challenge Moose’s authority.

The end of Anderson’s story casts a different light on the conflict. Near the summer’s end, Moose—who tends to drink too much—is found dead; he had apparently fallen off a bridge one night. Anderson strongly suspects that Cecil had carefully planned his revenge and had rigged a trip line across the bridge, which had caused Moose’s fatal plunge. If his suspicion is true, the main conflict is not just between the individual men but between the aspects of personality they stand for: brute strength and impulsive behavior as represented by Moose, versus Cecil’s representation of intellect and patience.

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