The Way Up to Heaven

by Roald Dahl

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Student Question

What is the conflict in "The Way Up to Heaven"?

Quick answer:

There are two main conflicts in "The Way Up to Heaven," person against person and person against self. A third conflict, implied though not described, is person against machine.

Expert Answers

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In Roald Dahl's short story "The Way Up to Heaven," the author describes Mrs. Foster's inner conflict in some detail. He says at the beginning of the narrative that she is not a nervous woman in most respects, but her fear of being too late for trains, flights, and engagements has been exacerbated over the years by her husband's attitude and is now a major source of stress for her. Her internal conflict, therefore, is reflected in her battles with her husband, since she is constantly worried about time, but has to try to conceal this as much as possible.

The reader is left to surmise precisely what happens at the end of the story, but it is strongly suggested that Mrs. Foster has left her husband trapped in the elevator and that he will have been dead for some time when she returns from Paris. There is an irony, given the fact that the reader sees so much of Mrs. Foster's inner conflict, in the lack of conflict she feels about leaving him to his fate. If Mr. Foster has indeed been trapped in an elevator in the empty house until he died, then there must also have been a conflict between man and machine. This, however, is not described.

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