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Internal Strife and Conflict in Literary Works


The paper is about to discuss the literary elements of inner struggle and meditation in various literary works such as Frost’s poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ Theodor Roethke’s ‘My Papa’s Waltz’ and the play ‘All My Sons’ by Arthur Miller. It begins with a thesis statement. The body of the paper includes a detailed description of the theme of inner struggle and meditation in the two poems. The last part of the paper is a comparison between the play and the two poems. The essay reveals themes, characterization, and various literary elements. The paper ends with a conclusion that restates the main points.

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Literature: A New Beginning

Internal struggle and Meditation

Literature in every language constitutes numerous aesthetic experiences to its readers through the effective use of various literary elements. Theme, characterization, conflicts, and symbolism are considered significant literary elements in various literary genres. The internal struggle, conflict, and meditation are the widely accepted literary elements in various forms of literature. Here the researcher attempts to analyze different literary works, such as Arthur Miller’s play ‘All My Sons’, Theodor Roethke’s ‘My Papa’s Waltz’, and ‘The Road not Taken’ by Robert Frost. Analyzing these literary works; one can find each of them has its own specialties in the presentation of a story, characterization, and the development of the plot. The writers of these literary works create the characters, events, and situations by making use of effective literary elements. After a deep silence/meditation, Robert Frost reached the final solution in the poem ‘The Road not Taken’. In ‘All My Sons’, the dramatist concentrates on the inner conflicts of the protagonist Joe Keller and his family members. Analyzing the literary works of Arthur Miller, Robert Frost, and Theodor Roethke one can see that internal struggle/conflict and meditation provide serious aesthetic experience to the readers.

The poem ‘My Papa’s Waltz’ also discusses some serious conflicts between an alcoholic father and his son. Both father and son suffered from inner conflicts. The father loves his son and his mind is filled with the complexes of his social and economic status. In the case of the boy, he suffers from the conflict that his affection towards his father and the mischievousness of his father’s behavior. The boy sings;

“You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.” (Burke 2009, line13-16)

The boy fears his father’s beating and he feels anxiety and fear. Even the boy suffers from fear and annoyance. He feels a deep sleep in his father’s hand with feelings of security. Critics comment that abusing childhood is the major theme of the poem “My Papa’s Waltz”. Waltzing is a kind of traditional dance form which is difficult to perform. The alcoholic father and his inner conflicts show some resemblances to the character of Joe Keller. Both of them represent the conflicts of American middle-class families. The effort of the father to become an ideal father fails pathetically, because of social and cultural hindrances. Basically, the reactions of the father symbolize the conflict between the preserver and the preserved. When analyzing the poem “My Papa’s Waltz”, one can see the theme of inner struggle portrays through the expressions and wild movements of the drunken father. At the end of the poem, the inner struggle of the father paved the way for reconciliation and meditation.

‘The Road Not Taken’ is considered a widely readable poem by the eminent American poet Robert Frost. His poetry is enclosed with an autobiographical touch, and in his entire poem, one can see that he presents his own life and he gives importance to his own feelings and inner conflicts. The poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ is one of Frost’s major poems which deal with his own life. This poem is all about his inner conflicts and the confused status of his mind in selecting the profession. Frost’s poem is noted for its own inner meaning. The poem is noteworthy in several ways as it has the beauty of picturization, indication, and reminiscence. He portrays the two roads which symbolize the two professions, namely, the profession of a teacher and the profession of a poet. It was a time he loves nature without any dislikes. Various elements in nature, like mountains, trees, rivers became an appetite for him at that period. The poet stands near the woods when the two roads diverged and tensed with the inner conflict of selecting the road. Frost uses the wood, a symbol of the poet’s life, and the two roads are two professions; so the wood and roads have enough relevance in the life of the poet too. The conflict/ internal struggle of the poet’s idea about two roads has some visible reasons.

Considering the theme of conflicts in various literary works such as The Road Not Taken and My Papa’s Waltz one can include Arthur Miller’s play All My Sons also. Through ‘All My Sons’, Arthur Miller proved his ability to use dialogue very well and also to create a fascinating drama for the audience in the convention of societal realism. Though the work did not get any identical opinion, it succeeded to win the consent of some prominent reviewers, especially Brook Atkinson, as he commented that “the most talented work by a new author in some time,” (All my sons (critical overview), 2009, Critical overview, para.5). ‘All My Sons’ is a serious analysis of intense desire to attain material comfort and also an apparent rank through hard work and willpower. There is also a controversial idea that even a deprived and indigent man can get wealth and reputation through individual strength, truthfulness, and steady business. Here in ‘All My Sons’, Joe Keller is such a man, who had no extreme knowledge about anything but through strong individuality, he succeeds to attain social status and dignity. The play has a conventional dramatic construction as the actions are arranged very vigilantly so as to reach their climax. It also appears as a social thesis play, as it conveys the story of a common man who has great social obligations, but in order to attain family welfare, makes his life a tragedy through his ignorant acts of sending patched cylinder heads to the army during world war. The dramatist explores the inner conflict of Joe Keller through various events. The conflict between family responsibility and social morality leads Keller in a world of unending sufferings.

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The element of inner conflicts and meditation is common in Miller’s play, Frost’s poem, and the poem “My Papa’s Waltz”. Even the density of crisis becomes different in the inner conflicts of Keller’s family. Fear and anxiety of the boy in ‘My Papa’s Waltz’ and the problem of choice in the poem “The Road Not Taken” share the serious attention of both the readers and critics. The conflict between modern city life which demands capitalism and material profits and the ordinary life of middle-class people is a common literary element. Comparing the other two genres of literature conflicts in the poem “The Road Not Taken” portrays the inner conflicts of the poet himself. In the case of Joe Keller, the conflict puts forward some serious social problems such as evils of capitalism, social and personal responsibilities and morality. But Frost’s poem never discusses any kind of social evils or severe ideological problems. Here the reader can see the inner conflict of the poet who suffered from the selection of profession in his life. Evaluation of the two roads leads the speaker into the world of meditation and the speaker finds one road is less traveled and another one is heavily used. The inner conflict of Joe Keller and Chris Keller in ‘All My Sons’ makes some serious social and ideological problems.

In his work entitled, The allegory of quest: A study in Arthur Miller’s plays, Satyendra Kumar reveals some relevant comments about the elements of conflicts in the play. The author remarks; “Throughout most of Miller’s work, the focus remains on the family, man, woman, two sons and their relation and responsibility to each one as well as society.” (Kumar, 2004, p.80). The conflict in Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken is common and the people often face difficulty to make decisions in their life. Frost admits the reality that it is impossible to choose two roads. The inner conflicts of the speaker reveal through his feelings of regression, confusion, anxiety and reconciliation. Poet’s inner conflicts reveal the truth that what he/she chooses now will influence other choices of his/her life. The poem ends with a regretting tone and the poet admits the fact that there is no chance of a coming back and also that it is impossible to travel down the other road he could not use. Yet, the poet remains proud of his selection and he realizes that the decision was an appropriate one. The speaker’s inner conflict reveals through the following: “I doubted if I should ever come back” and “Oh, I kept the first for another day!.” (Robert, n.d., Line 13 and 11). The Road Not Taken Analysis.

During the war, Joe Keller ordered to patch the cylinder heads and also fit them in the airliner engines made in his factory and send them to the war field which caused the death of twenty-one pilots. Though it is an irresponsible act, Keller does not consider the after-effects of it as he was not ready to admit the other responsibilities outside his own family and business. His main consideration was the progress of his business and also his family’s welfare, but his sons were quite different as they considered social obligations first than the family duties. Inner conflicts of the hero transform into the conflicts of family members also. It is this awareness that made Larry commit suicide than living a sinful life his father presented to him and Chris to quarrel with him. The characterization of Miller is extremely different while comparing Shakespearian concepts, as Keller is a common man who had no higher social status and his tragedy is not by an ignorant action but an irresponsible deed.

Thus, the play has a lot of themes such as relatedness, nuclear family, denial and self-deception, idealism, business and the American dream. The problem of relatedness is the main one in ‘All My Sons’ as it introduces a lot of questions about individual responsibility to society, personal obligations, and also the division between public and private affairs. Keller finally realizes the truth that one has great responsibility inside the family and outside the family. As the family is the nucleus of society, every individual has social and family responsibilities. In this play, it is also offered as a component that can be degraded or spoiled by the events and defiance of its individuals. The inner conflict reaches its zenith when Keller commits suicide. The reader may feel that the death of the hero Joe Keller is a solution for all problems and here the play goes to a meditated status. Keller reaches the world of ultimate calmness. The sleeping status of a boy in Theodor Roethke’s poem and the comfortable state of the speaker in the poem “The Road Not Taken” also give a convincing example for the reader.

The two main truths about Keller’s family are Larry’s death and Keller’s liability for the defective cylinder heads delivery. But the thing is that mother refuses the first, but accepts the second and Keller refutes the second but accepts the first. The fact is that both of them live in a state of self-deception, deliberately ignoring the truth so as to lead the family in a satisfactory way. The two roads which symbolize two professions in poets living in the poem” The Road Not Taken” give similar situations of conflict or inner struggle. Chris is an idealist in the play but unfortunately, he has to sacrifice his idealism when there arrives a critical circumstance of sending his father to jail and there is a question that if there is any rule to help the public to choose which ideals should be given up in which circumstance. There is also an illustration of the evil of the capitalist system which persuades the individual to value his business wisdom than moral wisdom, and here in the play, it is this business sense that leads Keller to his collapse. Keller, for an economic accomplishment, gives up all the American dreams, and through this Miller proposes the fall of a capitalist who lacks social and cultural morals. Through an evil deed, Keller recognizes as an ideal businessman but actually, Miller criticizes the system which encourages income and insatiability at the cost of human life and pleasure.

The elements of meditation are also a significant theme in the works of Robert Frost, Theodore Roethke and Arthur Miller. Frost concludes his poem with a kind of reconciliation and with a state of meditation. The meditation is about his past life and experiences. Here the speaker reconciled with a strong belief about his own selection. Through meditation, Frost shows his willingness to suggest a way to overcome procrastination in human life. Like Robert Frost, Theodore Roethke also ends his poem with a tone of meditation. After a violent encounter, the boy falls asleep in the hands of his father. Even the father has a lot of inner conflicts in his mind. He loves his beloved son. His love towards his son tends to give protection and comfort to his son. The last movements of father and boy provide considerable examples of aesthetic experiences to the readers. Regarding Miller’s play All My Sons, a reader can see that the elements of meditation have only a nominal significance.


All the above-discussed literary works exhibit inner struggle/conflict as the major element. Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” presents the poet’s inner conflicts concerned with the selection of a profession and his approach to modern city life. Another poem “My Papa’s Waltz” depicts the conflict between a drunken father and his son, that is, the preserver and the preserved. Finally, Comparing these two poems to Arthur Miller’s play “All My Sons” is the conflict among the family members of the modern world. Besides family affairs, it discusses certain social and ideological problems as well. Thus, all three works deal with a common factor, that is, inner struggle/conflict and the authors do it sincerely. Except for the play ‘All My Sons”, the elements of meditation are also discussed in both poems in detail.

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  1. All my sons (critical overview): Critical overview. (2009).
  2. Burke, J (2009). “My papa’s waltz,” by Theodore Roethke. The English Companion Ning.
  3. Kumar, S. (2004). The allegory of quest: A study in Arthur Miller’s plays. Gyan Publishing House. 80. Web.
  4. Robert, F. (n.d.). The road not taken analysis. Elite Skills Classics.

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