Difference Between Conflict and Climax

Main Difference – Conflict vs Climax

Conflict and climax are two main elements in a plot. The main difference between conflict and climax is that conflict is the struggle between two forces whereas the climax is the turning point of the plot. Climax is the point where the plot reaches its greatest intensity.

What is Conflict

Every story has a conflict – conflict is the element that gives the story a direction. Conflict is the struggle between two forces. It creates tension and interest to the story and sets the stage for the rest of the story. It is also important to note that a story is not limited to a single conflict; there can be more than one conflict in a story.

The nature of the conflict can vary widely. A conflict can be internal or external. An internal conflict occurs within a character’s mind while an external conflict is a conflict between a character and an external force. There are four basic types of conflicts. They are,

Man versus Man: This type of conflict involves characters having opposite desires and interests. This type of conflict is very common in fairy tales, myths, thrillers and mystery novels. 

Man versus Nature: This type of conflict portrays the protagonist struggle against an animal or a force of nature such as a tornado, flood, etc. Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe are examples of man versus nature conflict.

Man versus Society: In this type of conflict, the protagonist stands against the whole society. He is at odds with the accepted social norms and tries to works against it. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, George Orwell’s 1984, J. D. Salinger‘s The Catcher in the Rye are some examples of this type of conflict.

Man versus Self: This type of conflict develops from the main character’s inner struggle. He is often expected to make a choice between two options such as good and evil or logic and emotion. Overcoming self-doubt is another theme in this kind of conflict. William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman, Hubert Selby, Jr.’s Requiem for a Dream are some examples.

Difference Between Conflict and Climax

Man versus Man

What is Climax

The climax is the turning point of a story. It is the emotional high point or the point of highest tension in the story. A climax plays an important role in the conflict since it is necessary in order to resolve the conflict. This is the part where the direction of the story is decided. The climax of a story is the part where all the readers are waiting for – a battle, a revelation, clash between the antagonist and the protagonist, etc.

Given below are some examples of climax in literature.

Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar – Death of Ceaser

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird – Tom Robinson is found guilty

Dickens’s David Copperfield – David witnesses the aftermath of a shipwreck and Steerforth’s death

Main Difference -Conflict vs Climax

Death of Ceaser in Shakespeare’s Julius Ceaser

Difference Between Conflict and Climax


Conflict is the struggle between two forces.

Climax is the turning point of the story.


Conflict gives the story a direction.

Climax is the point where the conflict is at its highest.

Plot Element

Conflict is introduced at the exposition itself.

Climax is preceded by the rising action.

Difference Between Conflict and Climax - infographic

Image Courtesy:

Image 2 by Vincenzo Camuccini (Public Domain) via Wikimedia Commons

Image 2 by N.C. Wyeth – The Boy’s King Arthur: Sir Thomas Malory’s History of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, Edited for Boys by Sidney Lanier (New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1922). Scanned by Dave Pape., (Public Domain) Wikimedia Commons 

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