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The novel explores the theme of societal conflict between the privileged and the working class in early 20th century America.
The story revolves around John Ward, a successful lawyer from a wealthy family who becomes disillusioned with his privileged lifestyle and begins to question his place in society. Ward is drawn to the plight of the working class and begins to advocate for their rights, which puts him at odds with his family and his social class.
The novel also follows the story of Mary Wayne, a young woman from a working-class family who is engaged to Ward. As Ward becomes more involved in the labor movement, Mary becomes increasingly uncomfortable with their relationship, as she is torn between her loyalty to Ward and her loyalty to her community.
The Conflict explores themes of social justice, class conflict, and political corruption. Phillips portrays the labor movement as a response to the injustices faced by working-class Americans and highlights the role of political corruption in perpetuating those injustices. The novel also explores the challenges faced by those who seek to challenge the status quo, as Ward faces ostracism from his family and community.
Phillips’ portrayal of the labor movement was controversial at the time of publication, as it challenged the prevailing view of organized labor as a threat to American society. The novel was praised by some critics for its portrayal of the struggles faced by the working class, while others criticized it for its perceived radicalism.
Despite its controversial reception, The Conflict remains an important work in American literature and a significant example of the social realist tradition. It offers insights into the social and political attitudes of its time and provides a window into the challenges faced by those who sought to address issues of social justice and inequality.
The novel’s relevance has endured in the decades since its publication, as issues of class conflict and political corruption continue to be major themes in American society. The Conflict remains a powerful reminder of the importance of social justice and the ongoing struggle for equality and fairness in American life.
Overall, The Conflict is a powerful novel that explores important themes and offers a compelling portrayal of the struggle for social justice in early 20th century America. Phillips’ vivid descriptions of the labor movement and its challenges provide readers with a window into a pivotal moment in American history, while his compelling characters and engaging plot make the novel an enduring classic of American literature.