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What Is the Conflict in the Short Story "Distillation"?


In the short story "Distillation" by Hugo Martinez-Serros, four boys go with their father to scour for food in the city dump. The trip proves to be perilous. While there, they nearly lose one of the boys who falls through a pile of trash and they get caught in a destructive hail storm. The main conflict in the story is the family's fight to provide for themselves, which pits them against both society and nature.

Making Sacrifices

The theme of the short story is how far a father will go to provide for his children. The conflict enhances that theme. The children's father takes them to a landfill on Saturday because it is when a lot of food will be discarded. They go early so they can get the best pickings. The man vs. society conflict shows the family flouting the rules to provide for themselves. It doesn't matter that this is seen as shameful or dirty. It is what they have to do to survive. While they are there, a brutal hailstorm threatens their safety, but the father takes control to protect his children. He puts a tarp over his body and stands over them, shielding them from the rain and hail. The man vs. nature conflict shows that the family has to fight for their survival on many levels. When the family returns home, the narrator sees the father with bruises and lacerations on his body, a physical sign of the sacrifices he makes to protect his children.

About the Author

Maria Magher has been working as a professional writer since 2001. She has worked as an ESL teacher, a freshman composition teacher and an education reporter, writing for regional newspapers and online publications. She has written about parenting for Pampers and other websites. She has a Master's degree in English and creative writing.

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