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BookChums Theme: Conflict and Literature

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LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreat
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question….
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

- The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S Eliot

When we discuss conflict in literature, the first thing that comes to mind is the conflict that preys upon the deep recesses of the mind. The stanza above quoted from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is one of the most significant paradigms of a mind in conflict in literature. Check the description of the evening out in the stanza, it has been personified as ‘a patient etherized upon a table’. It was written in the form of a monologue, with Prufrock trying to make up his mind and speaking to his mind in conflict. He wants to approach a woman he fancies; however he lacks the audacity to do so. He is balding, aging and bears the attitude of a defeatist with a mind in alienation to the world around him. Until the end of the poem, we read him as yet to make up his mind:


I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?


Finally, Prufrock drowns in his own inertia of despair.


Shakespeare, the master of storytelling and wit described several of his plays with his characters in conflict. Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Othello, Twelfth Night and Macbeth by Shakespeare reveal scenes and stories of conflict. In Julius Caesar, after Caesar’s assassination, Mark Anthony provokes the hoi-polloi of Rome to violence, conflict and murder with his brilliant rhetoric,


“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest -
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men'


The various instances of conflict in literature go on.

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