Short Stories for Teaching Conflict for Help Teaching Conflict in Literature

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Teaching Conflict In Literature

I had a great lesson planned for my administrative observation.

“OK class, What’s conflict?” I asked. No answers. “Nobody knows what conflict is?” No answers. “Well, let me show you.” I walked over to my administrator, punched her in the face and laughed. Unaffected, she lifted me over her head, body-slammed me, did 15 WWE style leg drops on my neck, fired me, and suggested I begin teaching conflict in literature by getting a list of short stories for teaching conflict.

I ran into her at my disciplinary board hearing where she gave me more tips on teaching conflict in literature and handed me her list of short stories for teaching conflict.

I share it with you.

Short Stories for Teaching Conflict

  1. “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connel: Man vs. Man - Zaroff and Rainsford engage in a battle for the ages. Apparently Zaroff approves of hunting humans. Rainsford discovers that being chased by hounds and shot at is not as fun as chasing with hounds and shooting. Rainsford does, however, possess one attribute the animals do not. Will it be enough to outsmart the ruthless General Zaroff? Go here for an interactive lesson plan for “The Most Dangerous Game."
  2. “To Build A Fire” by Jack London: Man vs. Nature - Pay attention when the locals tell you not to venture outside when you’re traveling through the Yukon. This moron ignores the advice of local experts and is threatened with death, unless he can build a fire. “To Build a Fire” may inspire a creative writing assignment addressing a time when the weather posed a threat–life-threatening or non-life-threatening. For example, that day last July when my van’s engine caught on fire at the intersection of Lake Mead and Boulder Highway on the hottest day of the summer–119 degrees to be exact. I suppose London’s narrator could have borrowed my van and survived (side note: never own a 1998 Plymouth Voyager van, especially a purple one that caught on fire last year, unless you plan on driving in the Yukon).
  3. “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs: Man vs. Supernatural - Sergeant Major Morris returns from India with a Monkey’s Paw, cursed by a fakir. The sergeant pulls the equivalent of “I would tell you this joke, class, but it’s not appropriate for school” and conjures up a desire in his listeners to possess the paw. Herbert decides to make fun of it (Note to reader: never, ever make fun of a cursed monkey’s paw). As with all conflicts involving the supernatural, the doomed are warned in advance. Check out this lesson plan on foreshadowing and suspense.

More Short Stories for Teaching Conflict

  1. “Through the Tunnel” by Doris Lessing: Individual vs. Self - A young English mama’s boy attempts to become a man by swimming through an underwater tunnel. His descent into the underwater tunnel involves heavy breathing, blood, ecstasy, and an incredible sense of accomplishment. You can pretend, however, that the story isn’t really about sex during the parent-teacher conference (unless of course you point out every single symbol involved with sex to the class) and retain your job. A chart listing challenges faced by individuals in the class with a report on whether or not the challenge was accepted and what the result were works well.
  2. “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut: Individual vs. Society - Harrison Bergeron is physically and mentally gifted–time to give him some handicaps. Will Harrison be able to overcome his government mandated handicaps and restore sanity? This makes an excellent Big Brother is watching type lesson. Have students list five specific incidents from the short story and write how they are true or partially true. Remind your class that “Yes, we can.”

Enjoy these stories and enjoy teaching conflict.


  • Author’s Experience

This post is part of the series: Short Story Suggestions for Teaching The Elements of Literature

A good short story unit begins with good short stories.

  1. Teaching Conflict in Literature: Short Stories for Teaching Conflict
  2. Short Stories for Teaching Point of View in Literature
  3. Irony Lesson Plans: Short Stories for Teaching Irony in Literature
  4. Teaching The Setting of a Story: Short Stories for Teaching Setting
  5. Great Short Stories for Teaching Theme in Fiction