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Analysis Of The Portrayal Of Social Conflicts English Literature Essay

Conflicts are crucial for the development of the plot in a play or a novel. A conflict is a dispute between thoughts, ideas, principles or people that arises from a difference of opinions and therefore social conflicts are disputes between families, friends, relationships and societies. Dialogues are words spoken by characters in a book or a play and it is a technique that has been used by both authors to bring out conflict since it brings out the feelings of different characters in the books. In this essay I intend to show how the writers have portrayed social conflicts through the use of dialogue.

Social conflicts are shown to have been caused by social classes in the House of the Spirits since we can clearly see from the beginning that there is a struggle between the higher and the lower class for power. For example we see conflicts between the patrón and the peasants of Tres Marías since the patrón thinks the peasants are not worth anything and cannot take responsibility of any work. This is shown when Esteban and Pedro Segundo Garcia have a dialogue;

“‘The left’, he said

‘What’s your name?’

‘Pedro Segundo Garcia, sir, the man replied’

‘I am the patron here now. The party’s over……………I don’t want any deadbeats or smart-alecks around, you understand?’” [1] 

From the above quote we see that Esteban thinks that the people from lower class are loafers and do not want to work hard. We can feel the toughness in Esteban’s voice when he is talking to the peasants. The conflict between the higher class and the lower class is shown from the fact that the higher class could do anything without having the fear of being caught. An example of that is when the writer says;

“The peasants hid their daughters and clenched their fists helplessly because they could not confront him. Esteban Trueba was stronger, and he had impunity.” [2] 

From this the writer hints us about the power upper class status comes with and that’s why Esteban could do anything and therefore peasants hid their daughters from Esteban.

Family conflicts in The House of the spirits are portrayed as the cycle of violence in the book. The Trueba family and the Garcia family always had stressful relations in the book. This is also brought out through dialogue, for example when Alba was arrested by Esteban Garcia we see the following dialogue;

‘I want to go to the bath room,’ Alba repeated

‘I see you are just as stubborn as your grandfather,” Garcia said” [3] 

Garcia tells Alba that she is as stubborn as her grandfather who is Esteban Trueba, this shows us that there still exists a bitter relationship between the two families and Esteban Garcia wanted to take revenge of what Trueba did on her granddaughter. The cycle of violence is also shown when Alba says;

‘Afterward the grandson of the woman who was raped repeats the gesture with the granddaughter of the rapist, and perhaps forty years from now my grandson will knock Garcia’s daughter down among the rushes’

Family conflicts in Antigone are portrayed as difference in opinions because the way the conflicting characters used to look at things or judge them in the play was not the same. As we know they are differences in opinions between Antigone and her sister, Ismene and also between Antigone and Creon. We also see clashes between Creon and his son Haemon. Firstly the conflict between Antigone and Ismene brought out two contrasting women of that time. Ismene who was portrayed by the author as an ideal woman of that time and while Antigone was portrayed as the exact opposite of Ismene. This can be shown in one of the dialogues where Ismene says,

“If we break the law and die for it,

Our shame will last forever.

Women are not made to battle men.” [4] 

To which Antigone responds by saying,

“You’ve made your choice but I will bury him,

And I will welcome death in doing it.” [5] 

From this we can clearly see that Ismene is timid and is scared to break the laws made by the men who she thinks are superior to her. Whereas Antigone is of an assertive nature and is not scared to break the laws so as to obey the gods and respect the dead.

The conflict between Ismene and Antigone was brought out through the structure of the dialogues. Throughout the argument we mostly see long speeches from Antigone while Ismene just speaks her point in one line. This shows us that Antigone was confident of her stand and was not going to back out of her plan but on the other hand Ismene was not interested with what Antigone said and thought she is inferior and therefore she should not break the law. This actually brings out the difference in the opinions of the two women and therefore I believe that is what caused the conflict.

The conflict between Antigone and Creon was portrayed as battle between man and woman because Creon couldn’t accept defeat from a woman. According to me this conflict brought out theme of male chauvinism since Creon couldn’t admit that a woman had broken the law and was going against the men. This is shown when Creon says;

“When I am alive no woman shall rule” [6] 

Also I think this conflict brought out the fight between the laws made by Creon and the laws of god. This can be seen in the play when Antigone says;

“Your law. Not the sacred law. The gods.

That rule among the dead have issued no

Such proclamation. A man cannot erase

The laws unwritten. Cannot change the unchanging” [7] 

This shows us that Antigone believes that the laws made by god give everyone a right for proper burial but Creon on the other hand believes Polyneices is a traitor and doesn’t have a to be buried. Creon’s decision can be justified to a certain extent by the fact that he is the king and therefore he cannot allow personal bias to hinder his decisions.

The writer creates two symbols male and female through the conflict between Creon and Antigone by portraying two different sexes fighting against each other and therefore this conflict actually takes the form of male vs. female in the book.

Similarly there is a portrayal of a male chauvinist environment in The House of the Spirits which also brings out this social conflict. As we all know that Nivea used to hold rallies with other fellow women to fight for the right of women. The fact that it was a male chauvinist environment can be proved when Férula and Esteban say the following in the book;

“’I would like to have been born a man, so I could leave too’ she said, full of hatred

‘And I would not have liked to be a woman,’ he said” [8] 

This shows that women at that time were not allowed to go out and work and live their own lives as is the case with Férula who has to look after her mother because of her gender.

The portrayal of this conflict (male chauvinism) in both books brings out two similar characters in both books and they are Creon and Esteban Trueba. They both believe that women are supposed to look after the house and raise children and should not be included in the so called matters of the men. This is shown by the authors of both books, for example when Creon says;

“If I must fall, a man will bring me down,

Let no one say, Creon gave his power to a woman” [9] 

Sophocles brings out strong emotions of Creon through this quote which show us that Creon cannot accept defeat from a woman. I believe Creon was angered and his confidence was hit when a woman challenged him and faced him courageously.

Also in the House of the Spirits Esteban Trueba says;

‘Their duty is motherhood and the home. At the rate they’re going, the next thing you know they’ll be asking to be deputies, judges – even President of the Republic!” [10] 

Esteban believes that women do not have any work outside homes and their only work is to produce children and look after them which actually brings out his male chauvinist character.

This tells us that both Esteban and Creon had the same views about women and this led them to undermine the power of women and in both book it is clearly visible that both men are affected hugely by the women in their lives.

To sum up I think dialogue has played a very big role in bringing out social conflicts in both books because it has brought out the emotions and the thoughts of characters in the books which help the reader to know what going on in the characters mind at that particular time and therefore it is easier for readers to analyse the cause and the dynamics of different social conflicts.

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