The Rain Horse

by Ted Hughes

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In "The Rain Horse," what is the main character's internal conflict?

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The internal conflict experienced by the central--and indeed the only--character in the story seems to be based around the man's reasons for returning to the region where he grew up. It is not stated clearly, but perhaps it can be inferred that he had a very bad or disturbing childhood and hopes that by returning to this location he can somehow exorcise past demons or come to terms with what happened with him. However, he feels very disappointed because, instead of feeling something, he only feels "nothing." Note, too, how he seems to avoid putting himself in situations where he would be forced to confront the past, as is shown when he intentionally avoids the farm for the following reason:

...the thought of meeting the farmer—to be embarrassingly remembered or shouted at as a trespasser—deterred him.

The internal conflict that the main character seems to be experiencing therefore is characterised by his desire to return to his former childhood home but also his avoidance of confronting people that he might know from before. Some critics argue that the horse itself is a powerful symbol of the past that psychologically intrudes on the narrator's awareness and will not be ignored. This argument suggests that the man's internal conflict becomes projected into an external conflict with nature itself.

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