The Laramie Project

by Moisés Kaufman

Start Free Trial

Identify three conflicts in The Laramie Project by Moises Kaufman.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Many of the conflicts are interconnected, and specific examples reveal larger conflicts in the town and society as a whole.

Jedadiah tells us how his parents missed his performance of Angels in America because of the homosexual characters in the scene. This performance helped Jedadiah win a scholarship, but his parents were opposed to it. This specific conflict is character vs. character, but it also shows a larger societal conflict of those against homosexuality.

Marge shows us an internal conflict during her interview. She discusses her opinions on the town, but when she learns that what she says could be printed in the final play, she decides not to share everything. Marge feels the conflict of how much information to give.

Doc tells us about an internal conflict that can be intertwined with a conflict between those characters and society. Doc knew Matthew Shepard, and he tells us that Shepard was not the only gay person in town. However, the other gay people might not want to reveal themselves. This is an internal conflict as they struggle with their identity and the choice to reveal themselves. This also shows a conflict between these characters and society—perhaps they do not want to reveal themselves because of negative societal attitudes toward homosexuality. When specific characters, such as the various religious officials, speak out against homosexuality, this conflict can be considered characters vs. characters, as we see how there are some people who view others with hatred.

These are just some of the many conflicts that are explored in The Laramie Project.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The conflicts that play out in Laramie, Wyoming, after Moisés Kaufman’s Tectonic Theater Project arrives in town include human beings versus other humans, individuals versus society, and individuals against themselves (or internal conflict). Because the action begins after Matthew Shepard’s death, the audience hears about the killers’ actions from numerous different characters. Because the killers were the only witnesses to each other’s crimes and are in a weak position, one man, Russell Henderson, pleads guilty and testifies against the other, Aaron McKinney, at his trial. The prosecution of both men shows society against these individuals, and the trial shows one particular case of this opposition, in the effort to achieve justice for Matthew. The jury foreperson states, "We find the defendant . . . guilty" of the charges of kidnapping, robbery, and felony murder.

Some of Laramie’s residents seem to blame the victim, however, and speak as though sexual identity were a reason for being murdered. In trying to arrange an interview, Amanda speaks on the phone to a pastor's wife, who tells her that her husband "has very biblical views." The theater company members must try to maintain neutral tones in speaking with people who espouse such beliefs. Troupe members experience internal conflicts in carrying out their assigned roles in researching the theater work.

In addition, the outsiders who descend on Laramie both exacerbate existing conflicts and create new ones, although they inadvertently provide the impetus for building consensus and healing as well. The Westboro Baptist Church representatives show human versus human conflict when they bring their anti-gay message to the streets outside Matthew’s funeral, only to be met by the townspeople wearing giant “angel” wings that block their signs and spread a message of peace and understanding.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The conflicts in Kaufman's work abound.  The entire play is one mammoth conflict comprised of converging conflicts.  Certainly, characters like Jedidiah Schultz see a conflict in their own hearts.  There was Laramie before Matt Shepard's brutal death and Laramie afterwards.  This would represent an internal conflict, with Schultz trying to reconcile both visions of Laramie.  Certainly, there is a conflict within the Religious elements of the town, such as the ones that follow Phelps and homosexuals in the town, and in general.  This one is an external conflict of different parts of society against one another.  I would suggest that some of the interviews that lend insight into how the issue of homosexuality is perceived by the townspeople on a personal level could represent another layer of conflict.  Specifically, some of the towns people who are speaking out against homosexuality, or those who silently agree, could be homosexual themselves.  The idea is that the social conflict that rages could represent something internal, not able to be fully articulated, tearing apart individuals in the town.  This would be a conflict that assumes both individual vs. society, and, to a certain extent, individual versus self.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial