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A conflict is a battle between two opposite forces in a story. The struggle is typically between the protagonist and the antagonist, but there can be many different types of conflicts. Common conflicts in stories are character vs. character, character vs. self, character vs. society, and character vs. nature.
Conflicts can also be either internal or external. An internal conflict is a struggle the protagonist feels within himself/herself as the character battles opposing desires. Character vs. self is always an internal conflict. An external conflict is a struggle that exists outside of the character, such as a struggle against another character, against society, or against nature.
The external conflict of Isabel Allende's short story "And of Clay Are We Created" is described at the very beginning of the story. A volcano has erupted in Colombia, and the heat has melted sheets of ice, which has caused mudslides. The mudslides have destroyed villages and killed over 23,000 people by either crushing them, burying them, or trapping them. One of those trapped in the mud is the 13-year-old character named Azucena,whose name translates to Lily. As the story begins, she is still alive, but she is trapped and hoping to be rescued. Her struggle to hold on to life is a conflict, and since a volcanic eruption is a natural occurrence, we can see that her conflict is character vs. nature, which is an external conflict.
As the story progresses, we learn more about her external conflict. Each time an attempt is made to pull her out of the mud, she screams in agony because she is also buried by the rubble of her destroyed house. In addition, she explains that she is being "held by the bodies of her brothers and sisters clinging to her legs."
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