Which element of literature is the most significant in "How Beautiful with Shoes?" Use textual evidence from the story to support your answer. Do not choose the plot.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that the element of conflict is the most significant in "How Beautiful with Shoes."  It's the conflict that Mare Doggett experiences that resonates in the reader's mind.  She is fundamentally at odds with the world.  This struggle defines her identity throughout the narrative.  The conflict over her name is evident in the story's exposition, where she demands that her voice is heard in the form of her name from her mother.  This conflict is furthered when it becomes clear that she experiences a different construction of reality when Humble abducts her.  The conflict she experiences is rooted in the revelry of words, the belief that what can be could be what is. With words and language resonating in her mind, the conflict that exists between experience and hope, the world of what is and what can be through words, gnaws at her being:

Last night Mare had lain stupid with fear on groundpine beneath a bush, loud foot-falls and light whispers confused in her ear. Only now, in her room, did she smell the groundpine. Only now did the conscious part of her brain begin to make words of the whispering.  

This conflict is critical in defining how alienated from the world Mare becomes, a reflection of distance caused by words and a desire for the perfectibility that language offers which reality can never dare to envision.  This collision between incompatible courses of action forms the conflict that defines her characterization: 

And the world spread down around in waves of black and silver, more immense than she had known the world could be, and more beautiful.

While she has been rescued from Humble and while he is no longer a threat to her safety, the reality is that she has changed.  She is in conflict with the world in which she lives and can never reenter the world that she once knew.  When she ruminates that "Is it only crazy folks" that "ever say such things," it is clear that she is in conflict with the world around her.  Mare's conflict is what defines her being, something revealed when she rejects her fiancee with "Go 'way... Lea' me be."  The element of conflict with the world and within herself is of vital importance to Mare. Conflict becomes one of the most important elements in "How Beautiful with Shoes."

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How Beautiful with Shoes

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