- One great external conflict that Kira experiences occurs after her mother's death [man vs. nature]:
As for Kira, she had no family, now. Nor any home. The cott she had shared with her mother had been burned. This was always done after sickness. The small structure, the only home Kira had ever known, was gone....
No one would desire Kira.
The physically disabled Kira is alone in a world that has no sympathy for her.
- [ man vs. man]When she tries to pull carrots from the garden that her mother and she tended in order to have something to eat, a woman comes out from hiding in the trees and grabs Kira's carrots.
"Stop it! Those are mine!" Kira moved forward as quickly as she could, dragging her deformed leg.
Laughing contemptuously, the woman sauntered away, her hands filled with dirt-encrusted carrots.
- After Kira returns to where her cot had been, she sees the makings of a new one as though someone were reconstructing it for her, although she is aware that this is not the true motive. When Vandara approaches Kira,
"I've returned to rebuild my cott," she told Vandara.
"Your space is gone. It's mine now. Those saplings are mine."
"I will cut my own," Kira conceded. "But I will rebuild on this space. This was my father's space before I was born, and my mother's after he died. Now that she is dead, it's mine."
Other women emerged from surrounding cotts. "We need it," one called. "We're going to use the saplings to build a pen for the tykes. It was Vandara's idea."
In Gathering Blue, Lois Lowry creates a future world in which people are valued only for their ability to contribute to society. Those who cannot are condemned to death in the “field.” Throughout the story, the main character, Kira, must battle several kinds of external conflict.
This type of story is part of a genre called the “dystopian” novel. Dystopias are the opposite of utopias (perfect worlds). In a dystopia, life is grim and people are usually in constant danger from authorities. Some famous dystopias include Brave New World, 1984, and more recently, The Hunger Games.
As with most dystopias, the central conflict is man (or woman) vs. society. In this case, Kira is in conflict with a society that does not tolerate disabled citizens. Because of her physical condition, she is subject to possible death in the field, like other disabled people. She has to prove her worth as a weaver to survive.
There is also person vs. person conflict. Kira conflicts with a character named Vandera who wants to take away her home. She also conflicts with another character named Jamison, who she initially believes is an ally, only to learn later that he actually attempted to murder her father.