Teaching Types of Conflict in Literature

Types of Conflict in Literature

When I realized that I have a number of resources on ‘Types of Conflict in Literature,’ but they are scattered throughout my website and blog, I decided to create one post with information plus links to help people find the materials.


In a person vs. supernatural conflict, a character battles that which is beyond nature. It can’t be explained by natural law. This could be witches, vampires, mythical creatures, and so forth.

In a person vs. person conflict, the conflict is between two forms of like beings. This is often the protagonist versus the antagonist. The conflict may be verbal, physical, or emotional.

In a person vs. self conflict, the main character has a problem within him/herself. This type of struggle takes place in the character’s mind. The character has to make a choice between doing something that is right or wrong. The character may also have to overcome emotions.

In a person vs. technology/machine conflict, a character has a problem with robots or machines. This type of conflict is often found in science fiction.

In a person vs. society conflict in literature, a character struggles against the laws or beliefs of a group. This could include a character that fights against the rules such as freedom, rights, or a cause.

In a person vs. the environment conflict in literature, a character is struggling against the forces of nature. A person may be fighting against bad weather conditions such as a hurricane or blizzard, survival in the wild including the desert or jungle, or against a wild animal. 

Types of Conflict Organizer

Types of Conflict in Literature Organizer

This organizer/booklet may be used independently or placed inside an interactive notebook.  On each page, students write a definition and give examples of the type of conflict. On the final page, students summarize internal and external conflicts.

Download the organizer here.

Types of Conflict Another Organizer

Types of Conflict in Literature Organizer

This organizer is part of my free Peter Pan Novel Study. You can find the organizer beginning on page 16 of this handout. The rest of the handout includes additional story element resources that you may also find helpful.

Download the organizer here.

Types of Conflict PowerPoint

Types of Conflict in Literature PowerPoint

I created this PowerPoint to use with the novel The Cay a number of years ago. It contains other story elements activities such as character traits, setting, point of view, plot, and theme. Go to Slide 56 for ‘Types of Conflict.’ The PowerPoint is not locked, so you can change the teaching examples to novels your students have read. Following the definitions, seventeen slides show photographs, pictures, or book covers. Students identify the type of conflict in the example. Click again and the answer appears.

Download the PowerPoint here.

Anchor Chart 

Types of Conflict in Literature Anchor Chart

This anchor chart contains four of the six types of conflict. Sticky notes list books the students have read during the school year. Students place the book title on the anchor chart next to the type of conflict they feel best represents the book. Some sticky notes may be placed in more than one area.

Examples from the Novel Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

  • Person vs. Technology: Brian must drive and land the airplane after the pilot dies.

  • Person vs. Environment: Brian battles a tornado.

  • Person vs. Self: Brian must come to terms with his parent’s divorce.

The activity is not to narrow down novels to just one type of conflict, but instead to get students thinking. If students can justify why a title belongs in a specific area, then they have a clear understanding of what conflicts in literature is.

Gay Miller

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