The House of the Scorpion

by Nancy Farmer

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What is the main conflict in The House of the Scorpion?

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Most of the conflicts in The House of the Scorpion arise from the key plot detail that the protagonist, Matt, is a clone who is being "farmed" or "raised" so that his organs can preserve the life of his "original," the drug lord El Patron. Matt experiences a severe internal conflict as he tries to determine how he truly feels toward his benefactor and father, El Patron. On one hand, Matt was created inhumanely and then raised in almost total isolation; he is sometimes the victim of abuse at the hands of Rosa. His unusual and heartless upbringing is a direct result of El Patron's decision to create a clone for himself. However, El Patron's sporadic interference in his life does produce many benefits. For example, El Patron arranges for Matt to have an elite education complete with piano lessons, which Matt excels at. Matt also swells with pride for El Patron, as he is enamored with the power that El Patron exerts over others who work for him.

Matt experiences a similar internal conflict as he tries to assess his body guard, Tam Lin. Tam Lin shows Matt incredible kindness, such as when he shares with him the oasis near the opium fields. However, Tam Lin has an unsavory history that Matt must reconcile, as he has to decide whether to trust him with his own wellbeing. The end of the book sees Matt become the owner of the massive and lucrative fields after El Patron dies. He understands that El Patron was responsible for the death of Matt's beloved bodyguard, Tam Lin, and he seems determined to rectify the wrongs done by El Patron. The book's conclusion effectively resolves the conflicting feelings Matt had toward El Patron and Tam Lin. He recognizes the evil within El Patron and the true goodness at the heart of Tam Lin, which cannot be obscured by some incidents in his past.

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There isn't only a single conflict in The House of the Scorpion. There are several conflicts that focus on Matt, and each of those conflicts is related to the fact that Matt is a clone. That's bad, because clones aren't considered real people. They are essentially a subgroup of humans. In Matt's case, his entire reason for existing is to be a spare body parts carrier for El Patron. Matt suffers as a clone. He isn't treated well by most people in the book.

The servants went back to ignoring him. The Alacráns treated him like something Furball had coughed up on the carpet.

Additionally, Matt's clone identity is a big internal conflict of his. He knows that he is the exact genetic duplicate of a ruthless dictator and drug lord. Matt fears that he could become exactly like El Patron. He struggles to forge his own identity over the course of the novel and fears that being a clone will be his undoing.

He wasn't a clone! He couldn't be! Somehow, somewhere a mistake had been made . . . Was he going to end up strapped to a bed, screaming until he ran out of air?

Eventually, Matt is driven to escape from Opium, and that allows his external conflict with his abusers to essentially end, but his internal clone conflict will always be there. Additionally, the book ends on the hopeful note of Matt returning to Opium as the new ruler; however, that introduces a whole new conflict inside of Matt. What kind of ruler will he be? Will he be able to undo what El Patron has put into place?

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Conflicts come in different forms. The two main categories are internal (character versus self) and external (character versus an outside force).

The main conflicts in this book are external. First of all, there is character versus technology. Matt’s biggest problem is that he is a clone and was created through technology. This leads to the second biggest conflict, character versus society. Society frowns on clones, and so Matt is hidden until he is six years old and then treated like an animal when he is found. Clones aren’t considered people. People refer to him as “it” instead of using “he” like they would for a human boy. Matt does not really understand the meaning of the word “clone” and does not know why people treat him badly.

There are internal conflicts too, as Matt faces confusion, uncertainty, and fear when he learns who he is, and then he faces the need to escape.

As the book continues, Matt faces other conflicts. He has a character versus character conflict with El Patron throughout the book, as well as conflicts with other characters like the Keepers and others who victimize him.

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