In Show Boat, who are the protagonist and antagonist, and what is their major conflict?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Show Boat is a complex story of written in accord with the Local Color movement. The protagonist is Magnolia Hawks Ravenal, the daughter of Captian Andy Hawks who owns the Cotton Blossom Floating Palace, a floating theater showboat. The complexity of Show Boat can be said to give Magnolia two antagonists. In some respects her mother Parthenia is Magnolia's antagonist, and their conflict is the classic parent/daughter conflict of whether wisdom, caution, common sense, and planning for the future should outweigh emotions of the heart and the passion of young love.

In other respects, Magnolia's new husband Gaylord Ravenal (whose names sounds reminiscent of "ravinous") is her antagonist. Their conflict is the conflict of opposing lifestyles and one part of a married couple being forced to participate in the other partner's choice of life, a choice that in Magnolia's case involves the poverty, need, and instability of gambling losses. The power of gambling over their lives is so negative that Magnolia chooses to give her daughter up to a convent school just so she might know stability and consistent physical care.

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Show Boat

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