Difference Between Internal and External Conflict in Literature

By: | Updated: Aug-27, 2023
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Difference Between Internal and External Conflict in Literature

The literature world is a place where fictional characters are living. They possess different personalities. They communicate with one another and they make errors. The one who fictitiously tells the narrative is summoned by the author of the book.

Summary Table

Internal Conflict External Conflict
Happens in the characters’ mind, feelings, and thoughts. Happens between the characters and their actions or activities.
Caused by the character’s inner feelings Caused by the character’s actions
The conflict duration lasts longer The conflict duration is shorter

The subject of imaginative writing might be any type of event or situation but it must be exciting for the reader. Literature encompasses conflict and there are two or more sides to conflict.

The primary characters of the narrative are whole individuals who have different views as well as requirements. Every side possesses its own character, thinking, feelings and desires. If they want something different from each other.

Literature conflict can be divided into two parts, internal and external conflict. These two conflicts play crucial responsibility in the story. This article will present the difference between these two types of conflict.

What is the internal conflict in Literature?

Internal conflict is the disagreement within two or more characters in a narration. You can say that all character have diverse internal emotions, opinion and grounds from one another.

Let’s say there is a domestic clash in the book The Catcher in the Rye. In this story, you will find that he desire to commit suicide despite he has bonds and buddies near him.

Because of that, they do not coincide with one another on a particular topic. Therefore you can perceive it as different opinion and emotions about existence that could occur to Holden Caulfield and his friends.

Now we know that inside combat can always arise between the primary characters of the anecdote. However you can face this condition in your everyday life too. It can be your inner feels and view over specific subject that are very diverse from others.

Difference Between Internal and External Conflict in Literature

When you disagree about a particular issues with your friends, it can guide you to quarrel with them. It is normal for both you and your friends to have different perspective and feels. In reality, we can see this condition again and again in the actual world.

Although all of these are only the imaginary characters in a tale, they are allowed to voice their idea, affections and rationale too. You have to bear in mind that a character can have diverse grounds from the others.

What is the external conflict in Literature?

External conflict can take place when there is fight between two or more personality in an anecdote. You can see that they  can have various external actions and activities. You might know that this sort of disagreement does not occur in the their brain, yet you can see it in their movement.

Now let’s take a glance at a narrative about gangster’s life. You will find an outward clash that happened separating Alvarez and his father.

The dad does not fancy to see his little girl with an awful man since he wishes her to be married with somebody who has honorable position and very good moral code.

This kind of disagreement occur in the middle of the major characters in an anecdote but you are able to undergo it as well in your physical world. You may identify that your external move and affairs are very divergent with your buddies. This could guide you to have a fight with your friends.

You have to be aware that it is not a procedure that take place inside your mind, instead you reveal it instantly with your actions. Actually, it is very all right to have separate action when dealing with something. Nevertheless, the clash will undoubtedly arise when you begin to defend your actions.

In an imaginary narration, you will discover that the entire characters have diverse personalities that can cause them have distinct outward actions as well.

How are they related?

In writings, internal and external conflicts are associated to one another. They could happen simultaneously or independently. On the other hand, the internal conflict can occur without the external one.

Let’s have an example from a tale about a gangster’s life. You may recall that Alvarez and his father have a disagreement. The father does not like to watch his girl with a wicked person. He wants her to get married to an individual who has decent place and great moral code.

Therefore, you can say that an inner struggle is able to exist without an extrinsic one. You will find that there will be no outside clash, when there is no domestic fight that take place in the midst of the two characters. On the contrary, you will be very certain that the inner dispute exist when the outward conflict happened.

In any fictional stories, the internal conflict stand simultaneously as the exterior one and it can’t occur without it. You have to know that both disagreement have their own significance to the tale.

We can say that the internal one is the greatest since it’s the primary fight of a narration. In fact, external clash is the weakest one but it’s essential for the characters to have a few sort of struggle in their life.

What are the differences?

Place setting

Internal conflict happen between the characters of the tale. It take places in their brain, emotions and grounds. External conflict arise within the characters of the anecdote as well but it occur in their move and activities.


Internal conflict is produced by characters’ internal emotions and opinion. While the external conflict is brought by their activity and operations.


Internal conflict continue for a great deal of time in the narrative. It’s because the characters’ sentiments and consideration transform across the direction of the tale. Meanwhile the external conflict only remain for a short or long amount of time.

Effect on plot

Internal conflict influence an outline by growing it intimately and step by step. External conflict does not impact a scheme by affected its advancement at all or only comparatively ( some times).

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