What are the character conflicts in Coraline?

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In Coraline, the protagonist faces several conflicts. Initially, Coraline experiences conflict with her real parents due to their lack of attention, leading her to encounter the "other" mother who initially appears caring but is revealed to be malevolent, kidnapping her real parents. This escalates into a conflict against radical evil, where Coraline learns to be devious in her strategies. Additionally, she confronts the other Mr. Bobo, battling her fears and his sinister nature. The novel also explores broader conflicts such as societal expectations on children and Coraline's internal struggle in choosing between her two sets of parents.

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Coraline initially feels conflict with her real parents over the fact that they don't have much time to pay attention to her. They have to work, leaving her alone to amuse herself. Therefore, when the bored Coraline goes over to the other apartment, her "other" mother at first seems an...

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antidote to the lack of attention at home, but Coraline soon finds herself in conflict with this new parent, especially when she realizes the other mother has kidnapped her real parents.

Coraline's conflict with the other mother puts her in direct conflict with radical evil. Coraline learns through her maneuvers against her that the other mother does not play fair, so she learns that in conflict with another person, you may have to be devious yourself. Coraline also realizes other things during her conflict with the evil mother, such as that evil is derivative, not creative.

But the other mother is not the end of Coraline's conflicts. The other Mr. Bobo turns out to be another evil entity Coraline has to battle. With his creepy association with rats, he forces Coraline to face her own fears as well as him.

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There are several conflict types in Coraline.

Man vs. Man

This is an obvious one. Coraline is at odds throughout the book with multiple characters, most notably her own parents and the Other Mother. These conflicts, however, typically accompany a much deeper conflict.

Man vs. Society

The major thematic conflict of Coraline is Coraline vs. society's expectations of children. As a child, Coraline is expected to act, eat, think, speak, etc. in a specific way that she isn't interested in conforming to. Throughout the novel, she grapples with this conflict as she discovers an alternative (living with the Other Mother) and ultimately chooses her own parents.

Man vs. Self

Coraline also struggles internally with her decision of which "mother" to stay with. This conflict encapsulates both of the other conflict types in the novel and shows Coraline as a compelling, dynamic character.

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The main conflict is Man versus Society. Coraline, as a young child, has a specific role to play in society, but she is dissatisfied with that role. She is bored with her summer; there is no school to keep her mind busy, and so she explores. She feels that her father and mother are not attentive enough, but they feel that she should keep herself quiet and not bother them while they are working. Everything that follows in the book is a result of Coraline pushing back against both societal roles and authority; she refuses to listen when she is warned not to open the small door in her wall.

Coraline stopped and listened. She knew she was doing something wrong, and she was trying to listen for her mother coming back, but she heard nothing. Then Coraline... opened the door.
(Gaiman, Coraline, Google Books)

Her refusal to listen to authority leads her into trouble, but it is also what allows her to overcome each obstacle. By remembering the advice of her elders, and understanding the advice as it pertains to the strange events of the book, Coraline is able to survive and win.

There are also examples of Man versus Man (such as Coraline versus the Other Mother) and Man versus Nature (such as Coraline trying to navigate thick mist and escape strange creatures).

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What is the main conflict in Coraline?

I would argue that the main conflict in this excellent novel is actually that of many novels, as the powers of good and the powers of evil are shown to be pitted against each other. This novel is very reminiscent of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, where two girls find that curiosity gets the better of them and that as a result they are trapped in a different world that they have to find their way out of and to try and restore normal life.

Let us consider for one moment the way that the other fantasy world that Coraline enters is described. The key note that indicates there is something wrong with this world is the reference to the eerie button eyes of Coraline's fake mother and father, and the way that they try and convince and persuade her to stay with them and exchange her own eyes for a set of button eyes. The power of evil is therefore symbolised in these button eyes and in the fantasy world that this fake mother creates. Ranged against this power is the innocence and goodness of Coraline as she battles and fights to find her real parents and return to her normal world.

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