Environmental Conflicts in Literature

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Conflicts are a very prominent element in literature. If you were to look up the dictionary definition of "conflict", you would find that it is a "struggle, controversy, or fight." Conflicts can take many forms, and each has its own place in literature. Environmental conflicts are certainly one of the more recognized and appreciated types of conflicts. They are easy to identify, understand, and analyze. An environment can be described as one's surroundings, so logically, an environmental conflict is a conflict with one's surroundings. Environmental conflicts pit man against a greater power, and it is unsure what will happen next.

Throughout [good] literature, a vast array of environmental conflicts can be found. Let us take a look at "Leiningen Versus the Ants," by Carl Stephenson. In this story, environmental conflicts are exceedingly prevalent. In fact, the entire story is built upon the "act of God" that Leiningen faces. A twenty square mile army of ants threatens Leiningen's plantation and his life. The ants prove to be a formidable opponent, even for a man of such cunning as Leiningen. They represent the power and unpredictability of nature—a perfect example of an environmental conflict.

Not all environmental conflicts are huge, apocalyptic, catastrophic events. They can be as simple or commonplace as a tree falling. Such is the case in "The Interlopers," by Saki. Saki recognizes the power of nature, and makes use of something so unimportant as a fallen tree to trap Ulrich and Georg beneath it, and dramatically alter the course of the entire story. Not only that, but at the end of the story, Saki uses wolves to change the direction of the story once more, and this time he creates some irony as well.

In almost all cases, the environment does triumph over man in some way or another. "To Build a Fire," by Jack London is a prime example of this happening to a large extent. A man and his dog are lost in the wilderness at sub-zero...
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