The Magician's Nephew

by C. S. Lewis

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What is the major conflict in The Magician's Nephew?

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The main conflict in The Magician's Nephew is Man vs. self, or the internal struggle of what we want to become as opposed to who we are and how we were created. This is the struggle of Digory as he tries to find his place in the world, a world that is full of magic and creatures, but also has its share of danger.

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It can be argued that the overriding conflict in The Magician's Nephew is man versus self. In the story, Digory is pitted against two formidable adversaries, one who is human (Uncle Andrew) and the other, a queen from another dimension, Jadis. However, the reality is that Digory must overcome defects in his own character before he can claim victory over his enemies.

In the story, Uncle Andrew is a small-time magician, whose seeming ambition is life is to discover the secrets of hidden worlds. To do this, he cruelly tricks Polly (Digory's neighbor) into using a magical yellow ring to enter another dimension. Since Polly does not have a way to return to the earthly realm, Digory must go in after her with two green rings. The green rings are the only way anyone can return to earth again after venturing into another dimension.

In their adventures, Digory and Polly discover an enchanted wood that is a portal to other dimensions. Polly dubs this forest The Wood Between The Worlds. Both children have to contend with challenges as they travel between dimensions. By a twist of fate, however, Jadis (the wicked queen of Charn) ends up on earth and makes Uncle Andrew her slave. Although Jadis draws Uncle Andrew's focused attention away from Polly and Digory, the two children must still figure out a way to lure Jadis back to her world.

Digory is especially motivated to do this because he has a sick mother, whom he loves very much; furthermore, he does not want Jadis to enslave the whole world. By working together, both children are able to get Jadis back to the Wood Between The Worlds. There, they try to teleport back into Charn. Instead, Polly, Digory, Jadis, and Uncle Andrew end up in Narnia.

Narnia is an important destination because this is where all the main characters of the story meet Aslan, Narnia's creator. As the most powerful character in the story, Aslan is able to neutralize Jadis's power easily. As for Digory, he must put aside his previously self-seeking nature in order to save Narnia. Since the witch was never supposed to enter Narnia, Digory must help Aslan keep the witch out.

To do so, Digory must travel to the west of Narnia to retrieve an apple from a magical tree. He is to bring this apple back to Aslan without delay. At the tree, the witch tries to tempt Digory into forsaking his promise to Aslan. She tells him that he should bring the apple back to his own mother, rather than to Aslan. Digory ignores Jadis and runs away. Back at Narnia, Aslan instructs Digory to throw the fruit toward a river. Eventually, a tree grows from the apple, and it is fruit from this tree that heals Digory's mother. Aslan explains that, had Digory succumbed to Jadis's temptations at the tree in West Narnia, his mother would have had to endure an everlasting life of pain and sickness.

So, by overcoming his inclinations, Digory is able to triumph over his adversaries, to save his mother, and to introduce a new generation of children to Narnia (in the other stories).

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In all of the books in the series The Chronicles of Narnia, the over-riding conflict is good versus evil, most of which involves Aslan versus the White Witch. The individual novels all have different stories, however, where there are other characters whose conflicts against  evil are more in the forefront. Aslan is always present at some point in all of the novels, so this is always the battle that supersedes the other ones.

In The Magician's Nephew, readers find out how humans first entered the kingdom of Narnia - through a magic apple planted in Digory's backyard that grew up into a tree, from which the wardrobe was constructed  that allowed the Pevensie children to enter Narnia while visiting the old professor, who is Digory grown up. Digory, however, is the magician's nephew because his uncle Andrew is the magician. In this story, the evil queen Jadis is in conflict with Digory and Polly, who mistakenly bring her to London. As with all the other stories, Aslan must show up to rescue the humans, however, so there is always the main conflict of good vs evil despite the different story lines.

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What is the main conflict in The Magician's Nephew, and an explanation of it?  Man vs ?

I would say Man vs. himself.  Digory is definitely attempting to find himself and his place in the world or in Lewis' created worlds.  This adventure is a series of events which allow Digory to rise and fall within the every day human life of decision-making.  He makes poor choices and is allowed to be redeemed and forgiven.  Digory brings evil into Aslan's beautiful new world, but he is given a chance to redeem himself.  He proves that he is worthy as he brings peace and freedom from evil to Narnia. This is Lewis' way of representing God's mercy and generosity, because in each case Aslan (the Christ figure in this book as well as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) provides a way for people who have taken the path to evil to be forgiven and to be redeemed.  In this way, they are granted the guarantee of life beyond death.

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What is the main conflict in The Magician's Nephew?

In The Magician's Nephew, it's helpful to think of the conflict in terms of the external conflict and the internal conflict. Both types of conflict are important to the plot and characters in the book. External conflict refers to a force outside the main character that keeps him or her from achieving a goal or solving a problem. Internal conflict refers to forces within the character himself or herself that stand in the character's way of getting what he or she wants. 

The external conflict for Digory, the main character, begins with Uncle Andrew. When Digory and Polly accidentally stumble into Uncle Andrew's study, he locks them in and experiments on them with his magic rings. This results in Digory and Polly eventually finding themselves in Charn, where they awaken Queen Jadis. From then on, the primary external conflict comes from Jadis, who follows them back to our world and then to the newly created world of Narnia. Jadis puts the characters in physical danger, and she also presents Digory with the temptation to disobey Aslan and steal an apple for himself.

Digory also faces internal conflict. At various points in the novel, Digory struggles with himself to make the right decisions and do the right things. At the beginning of the story, he has been crying and has (understandably) allowed his emotions to run away with him because of his mother's terminal illness. Learning to restrain his emotions and act maturely remains a conflict for him. For example, he must decide whether to follow Polly to wherever the magical ring has taken her, although that means giving in to the manipulation of Uncle Andrew. In Charn, he finds it impossible to resist ringing the bell, which wakes up the evil queen. Finally, he faces a great temptation to disobey Aslan and steal an apple for himself. He conquers that temptation relatively easily, but when Jadis suggests he steal an apple for his mother, he must decide not between good and bad but between good and better. This is a sophisticated test that requires maturity, and Digory passes it, choosing to obey Aslan and not listen to the evil queen. Digory shows even greater maturity by confessing his near lapse to Aslan, and Aslan praises him and rewards him with the apple that heals his mother. 

The main external conflict in the novel is man vs. man in the form of Digory vs. Jadis. The main internal conflict is Digory vs. his immature desires. Digory's triumph over his immaturity allows him to win his external conflict with the evil Queen Jadis. 

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What is the main conflict in The Magician's Nephew?

This is an interesting question, because actually I would want to argue that there are several conflicts in this great novel. However, if we are trying to identify the "main" conflict, I would say that it would have to be the conflict between Digory and Polly and Digory's uncle, Uncle Andrew. Of course, it is Uncle Andrew himself that uses the children as guinea pigs, sending Polly against her will into another world and then forcing Digory to go after her so she can return. Note how Uncle Andrew is presented in Chapter Two:

"I hope," said Uncle Andrew presently in a very high and mighty voice, just as if he were a perfect Uncle who had given one a handsome tip and some good advice, "I hope, Digory, you are not given to showint the white feather. I should be very sorry to think that anyone of our family had not enough honour and chivalry to go to the aid of--er--a lady in distress."

Uncle Andrew is therefore presented as a manipulative man who uses children to do what he is not brave enough to do himself, and blatantly blackmails Digory into fulfilling his commands without any moral compunctions. It is this conflict between the children and Uncle Andrew that starts the story and leads them on into the other conflicts that they face.

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