How Many Miles to Babylon – Conflict

Central to the plot, conflict arises in five main areas:

  1. Family
  2. Friendships
  3. Social Class
  4. Political beliefs
  5. Power


  1. 1.     Family
  • The lives of the Moore family are rife with conflict.
  • As Alec lived a childhood of isolation it is the conflict between his parents that affects him most.
  • Alec knows that his parents only met when with him at meal times and these meetings only serve to show, unfamiliarity and disinterest, “Their only meeting place was the child”.
  • While Alec tells us that his mother won all arguments it is the nature of the arguments and the shape they take that shows the extent of the conflict within the family, “Their words dropped malevolent and cool from well-bred mouths”.
  • On numerous occasions Alicia dismisses her husband.
  • The suggestion of Alec going to school by Frederick is met with Alicia telling her husband he makes “the most absurd remarks” and “I have no intention of remaining in this house with you alone”.
  • The conflict between his parents intensifies when it is suggested that Alec should go to war.
  • Frederick has been very vocal about the stupidity of this war and this new idea of Alicia’s makes him become more vocal “taken leave of your senses”.
  • Again Alicia becomes dismissive of her husband and tells him to go about his work.
  • Alicia had remarked how Alec was becoming like his father and in an attempt to destroy any closeness they had she suggests Frederick is not Alec’s father.
  • In order to avoid this new revelation Alec decides to go to war and essentially Alicia wins and in doing so destroys the potential relationship Alec could have had with his father.
  1. 2.     Friendships
  • The conflict between Alec and Jerry’s friendship is due to their political, religious and social backgrounds.
  • Alec knows himself that he cannot let his family know of his new friend.
  • There is knowledge that this friendship is not perfect but it is the only sense of genuine affection that is shown between the characters in this novel, “Real friendship admits recognition of the ugly as well as the beautiful”.
  • It is Jerry also who shows an understanding that they both come from different sides of the social divide and that their friendship should remain secret.
  • It is this relationship that gives us the only point on which Frederick and Alicia agree where Frederick backs up his wife’s disapproval of the friendship telling Alec he must be aware of “The responsibilities and limitations of the class into which you are born”.
  • Alec’s trip to Europe is just one way that Alicia tries to put a stop to this friendship.
  1. 3.     Social Class
  • Alec is well aware from the start of Jerry’s social class and the differences.
  • Before they speak to each other Alec shows that he knew Jerry from around the farm and describes his seasonal clothing.
  • The social divide becomes irrelevant to the two boys but they are still well aware of society’s opinion on class mixing, “One’s as bad as the other”.
  1. 4.     Political beliefs
  • Political beliefs do not cause our two protagonists problems but they are noted by others around them.
  • Jerry has a clear link with Sinn Fein and when questioned by Alec, Jerry warns him to be quiet.
  • It is Major Glendinning however who has the biggest problem with Jerry and his assumed political beliefs and through this shows his clear dislike for Jerry, “Tainted with the Irish disease”, “He might also be a traitor”.
  • This conflict helps to lead to Jerry’s death and subsequently Alec’s too.
  1. 5.     Power
  • It is through the abuse of his power that Major Glendinning causes conflict.
  • Major Glendinning forbids socialising between the ranks, “I will have no talking between the men and the officers”.
  • When Jerry suggests moving divisions he is met with distain and branded “a potential trouble maker”.
  • When trying to help Jerry get leave to find his father, Major Glendinning refuses and tells Alec to move away from Jerry.
  • Major Glendinning shows his through anger at the friendship when he strikes Alec while questioning him about Jerry’s reappearance.
  • In his final attempt to stamp his authority Glendinning puts Alec in charge of Jerry’s firing squad.
  • Alec however saves Jerry from being shot as a traitor.

8 thoughts on “Conflict

  1. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment
    is added I get four emails with the same comment. Is there any way you can
    remove me from that service? Appreciate it!

  2. Hey there just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a
    few of the images aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure why but I
    think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different web browsers and both show the same outcome.

    • I would not use the impact of religion in this text. Knowledge is limited and unfocused. The main source you have for religion is the Irish English divide but in this text it is not really discussed. We know it is there because of the historical context more than the text information.

    • No he didn’t. His hatred of war just backs up his hatred of conflict and emphasises his passive/ non-confrontational nature when it comes to Alicia

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