One day after witnessing an argument between my mother and I, my grandmother asked to speak with me in the dining room. I could hear the urgency in her voice. I quickly followed her into the dining room and slowly pulled out a chair to sit down. My grandmother sat beside me at the table, stretching her arms out. I felt nervous, so I clasped my hands together and placed them in my lap. She wore a striped t-shirt and a long skirt. I never really spent one on one time with my grandma because she was always busy with housework and I was never home. Until now, I have never noticed her scars and burns from farming and cooking over a gas stove.
I fidgeted in my seat feeling restless. Finally, after a moment of silence between us, she cleared her throat and said, “When I was your age, I didn’t have much. My mother had many children, and I was the youngest one.” I adjusted myself on my chair, prepared for the scolding that I deserved for talking back to my mom, but my grandma’s voice remained calm. “One day, there was no money in the house to buy food, so my mother loaned me out to a man for a small price. I was just nine years old.”
Curiosity and outrage filled my heart simultaneously, and I sat in uncomfortable silence as my grandmother continued her story. “I was dropped off at his house, and my mother told me not to come back. I cried for days asking for my mother, but my mother never came. I was made to wash clothes that I could barely lift on my own. He beat me when I did not wash his clothes properly. I hated living with that man,” she said playing with her fingers, as if she were a child. For some unknown reason, I felt shy and sad at the same time. I always praised my grandmother for the way she washed clothes with her hands. I loved the sound that her hands made as it rubbed against the clothes, and I secretly wished my hands would do the same. Now, she’s telling me that she was forced to wash the clothes of a stranger so her siblings could eat.
“After living with him for a couple of weeks, I decided to run away. I ran as fast as I could, and as hard as I could back to my mother’s house. She was very shocked to see me standing outside the door. She asked me to go back, but I refused. Finally, she took me inside.” I looked at my grandmother to see if she was fighting back tears, but there was no trace of them in her eyes. She picked up my right hand and held it down on the table. Her voice became softer. I felt like a complete loser and an ingrate because I already had an idea about what she was going to say next.
“Your mother works very hard to take care of you. She would sacrifice anything to make you happy. So when she tells you not to do something, don’t get mad, she is only trying to guide you. My mother did not care much about me, and she did not do much for me when I was a child. You should be proud that you have a mother like the one you have and appreciate her more. I am proud of my daughter for the way she looks after you.” She got up and disappeared into the kitchen. I remained seated at the table, alone with my shame.
My grandmother used her story to teach me to respect my mother and appreciate the privileged life I was living. The conflict she faced in her story made me sympathize with her and kept me engaged as a listener from the beginning to the end. Her words stirred my emotions. I was able to put myself into her shoes and experience abandonment as she experienced it at the age of nine. Therefore, I completely agree with Veronica Roth when she says, “If there’s no conflict, there are no stories worth telling – or reading.”
Stories with conflicts have the power to change the views of the listener or reader by allowing them to experience the attitudes, behavior, and emotions of the characters involved, while stories with no conflict do not. Telling a story without conflict is not impossible, but the most memorable stories are the ones that prompt us to think outside the box and challenge us to problem solve a situation. It is difficult to make a meaningful connection with characters in a book if they have no challenges to work through, and it is extremely boring to read a book or listen to a story that has no conflict. Adversity is part of our day to day life, so reading about someone else who has gone through or is going through the same issues allows us to analyze, organize our thoughts and develop keen problem-solving skills. In retrospect, people would be oblivious to the world around them if stories had no conflict. How would we be able to understand social diversity? How would we be able to communicate with each other and appreciate our own identity if we did not have stories with conflict?
The conflicts that we face in our lives shape and form our personality and directly impacts the way we interact with those around us. Therefore, conflict in stories is necessary for helping us understand our neighborhood, communities, and society as a whole. It raises awareness about important issues such as poverty, freedom, social oppression, environmental disasters, and so much more. It inspires us and prompts us to be activists, leaders, and heroes. It challenges us to better ourselves and the world around us. Could you image what our history books would look like if the stories written in them had no conflict? History would be redundant because there would be no personal struggle to appreciate, no hero to look up to, and no offered solutions to real-life issues.