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Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

by Rick Riordan

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The main conflict and power struggle in Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Summary:

The main conflict in Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief revolves around Percy Jackson's quest to retrieve Zeus's stolen lightning bolt. The power struggle involves various gods and demigods, with Percy caught in the middle of a brewing war among the Olympian gods, primarily between Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades.

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What demonstrates a power struggle in Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief?

There are quite a few struggles for power in Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief, from Titan to Olympian god to demigod. Kronos — the Titan father of the elder Olympian gods — wants to overthrow his children. Ares — the god of war — tries to start a war between Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon. Then there's Luke — a demigod who feels mistreated by the gods and those in charge at Camp Half Blood.

We learn early in the story that Kronos was defeated by his children and sent to the Underworld after devouring and then regurgitating the gods:

Zeus did indeed feed Kronos a mixture of mustard and wine, which made him disgorge his other five children, who, of course, being immortal gods, had been living and growing up completely undigested in the Titan's stomach. The gods defeated their father, sliced him to pieces with his own scythe, and scattered his remains in Tartarus, the darkest part of the Underworld.

This is the backstory for the main power struggle throughout the book. It is revealed at the end that Kronos has been manipulating both the gods and demigods so that he can escape Tartarus, create chaos among the Olympian gods, and regain his throne.

Ares, whose power comes from his mastery of war, is among those manipulated by Kronos. After catching the real thief, he uses the stolen lightning bolt and helm of darkness to create animosity among the three elder gods (Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon), placing Percy Jackson in a position to take the fall for the theft. Though it was Luke who initially stole the Olympian gods' items, Ares is the one who sets everything up. When Percy confronts Ares towards the end of the book, the god of war spills the beans:

"The point is, kid, you're impeding the war effort. See, you've got to die in the Underworld. Then old Seaweed will be mad at Hades for killing you. Corpse Breath will have Zeus's master bolt, so Zeus'll be mad at him. And Hades is still looking for this..."

As you can see, Ares set in motion a series of events that were meant to lead to the three elder gods warring with each other. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that Ares was manipulated by Kronos, so this power struggle cannot be fully attributed to the god of war.

Finally, we get to Luke. While his is not a struggle for power per se, he does facilitate both Kronos' and Ares' struggles by stealing the lightning bolt and helm of darkness in the first place. Luke's struggle comes from his dissatisfaction at being neglected by his father, Camp Half Blood, and the rest of the Olympian gods. He does not seek power in the traditional sense. Demigods' power (i.e. glory) comes from their ability to take part in quests. Luke feels misused, particularly when it comes to the only quest:

"He showed me that my talents are being wasted. You know what my quest was two years ago, Percy? My father, Hermes, wanted me to steal a golden apple from the Garden of the Hesperides and return it to Olympus. After all the training I'd done, that was the best he could think up."

The irony here is that this quest is both a foreshadowing and a 'training' of sorts for his actions throughout the book. He is upset that he is asked to steal an item rather than engage in heroic battle, yet that is exactly what he does for Kronos.

Clearly, the main struggle for power comes from Kronos. The other two examples show a different kind of 'power' being sought, but they are done so through the Titans' efforts. Though his plans are foiled by Percy Jackson and his friends, these events set Kronos up as a force to be reckoned with throughout the other books in the series.

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What demonstrates a power struggle in Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief?

In this book, when the Olympians had defeated the Titans, Kronos’s children (including Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades) had carved him up into little pieces and cast him down into Tartarus. However, now Kronos is interested in exacting his revenge on his children and taking back his power. Kronos persuaded Luke to steal Zeus’s master lightning bolt and Hades’s helm of invisibility by speaking to Luke in his dreams. He tried to appeal to Percy as well, but Percy sensed his terrible darkness and would not listen to him. Luke has become disillusioned with the Olympians, especially after the death of Thalia, and he believes that his talents are being wasted, and so he wants to work for Kronos and overthrow them.

When Ares caught Luke with the “items of power,” he threatened to take them and burn him alive; however, Kronos’s voice spoke inside Luke’s head and told him what to say to get out of trouble with the god. He baited Ares with the idea of a great war among the gods, and so Ares let him go. It seems, then, that a few gods (and at least one half-blood) are interested in shifting the power dynamic. Luke believes, as Kronos has surely told him, that overthrowing the Olympians and restoring power to Kronos will result in a “Golden Age.”

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What is an important theme in Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief related to a struggle for power?

One potential theme in this novel is that the parent/child relationship always consists of or results in a struggle for power. The major conflict of the novel is the result of the power struggle between Kronos and his Olympian offspring; he wants to regain the power that he lost to them many years ago. This grudge furthers the resentment between the Titan Kronos and his children. In addition, Luke agrees to work with Kronos because he has become disillusioned with his father, Hermes, because Hermes gave him a quest that Hercules had already completed, one that Luke feels was beneath him. Luke thinks that his talents are being wasted, and so he rebels against his father and the other Olympians by assisting Kronos to overthrow them. This resentment creates the struggle for power in Luke and Hermes’s relationship. Further, Ares gets involved because he is interested in the idea of a war among the gods, one of whom is Zeus, his own father. If Ares weren’t interested in the possibility of toppling Zeus from power, he would likely not assist in any plot that would result in the most powerful three gods at war with one another.

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What is the main conflict in Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief?

The Lightning Thief is the first part of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, and is a soft fantasy narrative that deals with our modern world colliding with the world of ancient Greek gods. The protagonist, Percy Jackson, is involved in two primary conflicts. The first is external. Percy, who is revealed to be the forbidden demigod son of Poseidon, receives an oracle that commands him to search for the unidentified thief of Zeus's master lightning bolt. He is tasked with preventing a war between the gods. This quest takes him to many locations, including the very gate of Hades's realm itself. In the course of the quest, he has to reconsider both friends and enemies alike before finally uncovering the truth.

The second conflict is internal, and deals with Percy coming to terms with the nature of his identity. Percy is a misfit in many regards. Before he was aware of his status, he struggled in school due to ADHD and dyslexia. While these are revealed to be mere by-products of his demigod status, he suffers a greater identity crisis upon realizing that he is part of the contentious struggle between the gods. Siring offspring has been forbidden for the greater gods, like Poseidon, for a number of years. Percy must grow into himself and gain confidence and self-assurance before he can resolve the strife of the gods.

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What is the main conflict in Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief?

The main conflict in this novel is that Percy Jackson must find and return Zeus's stolen thunderbolt to avert a war among the gods that Zeus will start with Poseidon if his thunderbolt is not returned by the summer solstice.

Because these wars play out among humans—we find out that World War II was really a war between the gods—it is imperative for Percy to find the thunderbolt and find it fast.

Therefore, he goes to Los Angeles (where the entrance to the underworld is located), sure that Hades must have stolen the thunderbolt. When he gets there, he finds that he has been tricked. Hades does not have the thunderbolt, but now Percy has another problem: Hades believes Percy stole his helm of darkness. Hades has Percy's mother and won't give her back until Percy returns the helm of darkness. Percy faces two conflicts: finding and returning Zeus's bolt (and battling all the creatures that will try to prevent this) and likewise finding and returning the helm. Otherwise there will be a major war, and his mother will be trapped in the underworld. Percy, in other words, has his hands very full for a twelve-year-old.

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What is the main conflict in Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief?

Percy Jackson is a twelve-year old who hates his stepfather and loves his mother. He also finds out he is a demigod, half human and half god. The problems are endless for Percy which creates many conflicts. The main conflict is that Zeus's lightning bolt has been stolen, and Poseidon, Percy's father, is the suspect. Percy has to return the bolt before the Summer Solstice and has help from his friends, Grover, a satyr and Annabeth, daughter of Athena.

Percy and his mother are ambushed by a Minotaur, yet another conflict, and his mother is kidnapped and taken to the Underworld, Hades. Percy has to rescue his mother as well. To make matters worse, the gods are warring with each other creating even more conflict. Percy Jackson faces one conflict after another.

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What is the main conflict in Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief?

The primary conflict which drives the action of the novel is that Percy must find and return the stolen master bolt to Zeus, king of the gods.  He receives a hero's quest from the oracle at Camp Half-Blood that he must "go west, and face the god who has turned [...] find what was stolen, and see it safely returned" (141). 

As Percy accepts this quest and leaves to find Hades and the Underworld, he encounters many dangerous monsters and threats that attempt to deter him from reaching his goal.  Percy knows that the stakes are high for him to find and return the bolt, for if he fails at his task, Chiron predicts "western civilization turned into a battleground so big, it will make the Trojan War look like a water-balloon fight" (138).

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What is the main conflict in Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief?

Percy Jackson and the Olympian: The Lightning Thief is a story that follows a fairly typical heroic journey. Readers are introduced to a character, Percy, who is anything but heroic in stature or confidence. He is given a call to action, special powers, and knowledgeable companions to help him develop into a hero.

With all of those pieces in place, it is time for Percy to begin stepping into his hero role. This means that the story begins telling readers about a variety of increasingly difficult and scary rising actions. Percy's quest has him fighting monsters like Medusa. He and his friends nearly lose their memories in an enchanted Las Vegas casino, and they are nearly stretched to death. Percy then has to descend into the Underworld, and this is where the climax begins.

Percy and Hades accuse each other of having the master bolt, and the master bolt unexpectedly appears in Percy's backpack during his conversation with Hades. Hades is justifiably upset; Percy is lucky to escape his wrath. He, Annabeth, and Grover then meet Ares on the Santa Monica beach. It turns out that Ares stole the master bolt. Percy and Ares have a battle. Percy wins, and the story moves into the falling actions of Percy returning the helm of darkness to Hades and meeting Poseidon and Zeus.

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What is the main conflict in Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief?

One example of conflict in the text is the antagonism between Percy and Nancy Bobofit at Yancy Academy.  They've had a history of poking at each other, literally and figuratively, but at the art museum, things come to a head.  Percy says, "I don't remember touching her, but the next thing I knew, Nancy was sitting on her butt in the fountain, screaming, 'Percy pushed me!'"  This episode helps to lead to his expulsion from school.

Then, of course, there's the conflict between Percy and Mrs. Dodds (one of the Furies), after the conflict with Nancy.  He says, "The look in her eyes was beyond mad.  It was evil," and she proceeded to attack him.  Were it not for the pen/sword that Mr. Brunner tossed to Percy, he would likely have followed Mrs. Dodds' orders to "'Die, honey!'"

Once he arrives at camp, it doesn't take long for Percy to conflict with Clarisse, daughter of Ares.  When they play capture the flag, she says, "'we don't care about the flag.  We care about a guy who made our cabin look stupid.'"  She tries to skewer him with her electrified spear, and one of her half-brothers slashes Percy's arm with his sword, leaving him for dead.  Luckily, the water he collapses in restores him. 

One of the most important conflicts of the novel is the one between Percy and Luke.  Percy has been told by the oracle, "You will be betrayed by one who calls you a friend," and this comes to pass when Luke betrays Percy.  Once Percy realizes this, he accuses Luke, who "stood calmly and brushed off his jeans" while the scorpion he called up creeps slowly up Percy's leg.  Luke finally tells him, "'Good-bye, Percy.  There is a new Golden Age coming.  You won't be part of it.'"  He thinks that Percy should be willing to abandon the Olympians, as he has, and work with Kronos to begin a new world order.

There are also conflicts between Percy and his step-father, the Minotaur, Medusa, Annabeth, Echidna, Ares, Hades, Zeus, even Percy himself (consider when he must decide on whom to use the pearls when he's in the Underworld).  The novel is riddled with conflicts involving poor Percy!

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