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I think that Gaines' story features different conflicts. One particular conflict is the economic problems that plague the mother and son. They are battling through the conflict of economic inequality. This is seen in the financial challenges of not being able to afford the dentist in the first place, as well as having to make the basic choice of eating or bus transportation back home. The hunger that James feels is a conflict between his own experiences and the external condition that defines his being. Along these lines is a fundamental challenge of racial inequality, a conflict that is both represented in the reality that faces the mother and James and the internal considerations of James, himself. James wonders about the nature of the reality of race the surrounds him, defining his existence. The issue of James becoming "a man" at the end of the narrative is one in which the conflict of race and Civil Rights is an essential part. The discussion in the doctor's office also represents another element of conflict in the Black community regarding how to address the social conflicts that are present. The words of the student, ones of defiance, represents one notion of conflict against the words of the woman and the preacher, seeking to understand the social pressures placed against them in another context and type of setting. In this, there is conflict evident in the different ways of dealing with challenge and a sense of the difficult condition that is being faced in the time period by people of color.
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