An Analysis Of Main Character’s Conflict In Jodi Picould’s My Sister’s Keeper

An Analysis Of Main Character’s Conflict In Jodi Picould’s My Sister’s Keeper

Edy Suprianto
STBA Technocrat Tangerang


This thesis is aimed at analyzing of conflict and the process of how the conflict contained in the novel by Jodi picould entitled My sister’s keeper. In this thesis the writer tried to explain how the conflict develops. Conflict is a very important element in literary work. Conflict will make the story more interesting, because the conflict is an aspect to develop the storyline so the script becomes more amusing. In order to discover the answer, the writer tried so formulate the problem into two questions. (1) How are the main character’s internal conflicts describe in the novel of My Sister’s Keeper written by Jodi Picoult,  (2) How are the main character’s external conflict portrayed in the novel of My Sister’s Keeper. The writer applied objective approach. There are two conflicts which are internal conflict and external conflict. Internal conflict is a conflict between individual with himself and external conflict is a conflict among individual with another character, nature, society, Supernatural, and destiny. 

Keywords: conflict, character, novel



Conflict is an actual or perceived opposition of needs, value and interest. A conflict can be internal (within oneself) and external (with another one). Conflict as a concept can be explain many aspects of social life such as social disagreement, conflicts of interests and fight between individuals, groups or organization. When an interpersonal conflict does occur, its effect can be involved more than two individuals and can affect many associate individuals, and relationship in some case.

This novel which was discussed in thesis written by Jody Picoult entitled My sister keeper tells about little girl, she is age thirteen years old, her named is Anna Fitzgerald she is a youngest Fitzgerald child. She has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions to older sister to fight the leukemia that has to disturb her since childhood. This story explains from diagnosis of pre implantation genetic, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate a life and a role that she has never questioned until now. Like most teenagers, Anna was beginning to question who she was in fact. But unlike most teenagers, she had always been defined in term of her sister and so Anna made a decision that for most would be impossible to determination that would tear her family and have fatal consequences for the sister was she loved. My sister keeper examined what it meant to be good parents, a good sister, and a good person.

The writer chose this novel because after reading ― My Sister Keeper ― novel, conflict about emotions and actions of characters put into a family in which one of three children is battling a life threatening illness. This novel was dominantly expressing conflict experienced by the character or the main characters. They were trapped to solve their conflict which appears internally and externally. This was the background as well as one reason why this topic was analyzed in this thesis.

Based on the explanation above the writer decided to find out the main character‘s internal and external conflicts described in the novel of My Sister Keeper by Jodi Picoult.


Conflicts have some types which we can see in our life. According to Lailasari (2005:141) distinguishes two types of conflict, external conflict and internal conflict. Based on the explanation above, there are types of conflict in literature. Types of conflict are a) Internal conflict and b) External conflict.

Internal conflict is a conflict that comes from inside of the character in literary work. Internal conflict also called man versus self-conflict. Internal conflicts are that which exists inside the character. According to Morner (1998:43), ―The main character struggles against himself or herself is an internal conflict‖. This form conflict is central to the character or characters and must be resolved by the character alone. Every good character suffers from the weight of internal conflict; it lends them an air of complex believe ability. Internal conflict is also known as man versus self or person versus self. While internal conflict is necessary for good character, it is the last complicated form of conflict. Internal conflict is a private war within oneself. It could be anything from deciding between two or more choice, to deciding many things in our personal life.

Internal conflict is the conflict which goes on with in the mind of the hero and between him and goal he has set himself. Internal conflict provides as unstable basic for positive results in the outsides world, as him often choose some aspects of outer environment to match the group within themselves. People, who notice that they have repeated negative aspects, may find that understanding themselves is a basic for better result.

External conflict is includes man versus man, man versus nature, man versus society and man versus fate.  External conflict deals with the problems of the world. External conflict, according to Meyer ―External conflicts may place the protagonist in opposition to another individual, nature or society,‖ (1990:45). The story‘s characters will struggle against the circumstances of external conflict, they may even suffer internal conflict resulting from the issues of external conflict, but this is not as simple as internal conflict. External conflict occurs when characters are involved in the world‘s woes, such issues as community, nature, government and other characters are all examples of external conflict. Furthermore, conflict has four points. According to Holman (1960), there are four types of conflict.

―This person, usually the protagonist, may be involved in conflicts of four different kinds: (1) he may struggle against the forces of nature; (2) he may struggle against another person, usually the antagonist; (3) he may struggle against society as a force; or (4) two elements within him may struggle for mastery (p. 105)

External conflict manifests itself as man versus man, man versus nature, man versus society. Internal conflict is the issues a character face an issue that requires a personal opinion or decision. This difficult decision must be concluded with a definite conclusive decision.

A novel can be analyzed from several of point of view. It can be analyzed from the moral, social, and religious point of view. In this case, is interested in discussing about the conflict that is dominant in this novel, which it will related to moral and social life. The novel can be analyzed from the conflict. Conflict can be main part of a novel in order to make the plot of story more interested. It means, plot is necessary to use and develop in order to make the story become interested.

In conflict an author usually provides suspense as an influential something in creating a good story. Abrams in Tuloli (2000: 25) stated that suspense is the reader‘s curiosity of the emergence a series of event that is found by the characters with we have sympathy. Base on the statement without suspense, a story has not attracted for the reader and that is to bind up the readers to following the story until finished.


Data collected can be analyzed using statistical technique and would also be considered qualitative descriptive research. Descriptive research involves describing and interpreting event‘s condition or situations of the present. Generally, findings and conclusion only apply to the studied. The writer applied library research, of course applied method qualitative research..

The research was conducted by two ways, the first a way is library research which is done by reading some references related to it and the second way is field research which is done by analyzing the novel. The writer also takes the approach of main character‘s conflict focuses on internal conflict and external conflict based on the Dictionary of Literary Terms by Morner and A Handbook to Literature by Holman.


The main discussion of this topic focused on the main characters conflict. Based on the classification on the conflicts, there were two main types of conflicts; the internal conflict and external conflict. The writer found ten internal conflicts as a data and sixteen external conflicts as the data, but the writer only analyzes six internal conflicts and fourteen of external conflicts.

  1. Internal Conflict
  2. Anna’s Internal Conflict (p.129)

Anna was a designer baby having the exact bone marrow match for her sister, Kate. Until the age of thirteen, Anna had undergone countless surgeries and transfusion in order to somehow help Kate to fight the leukemia that had plague her since he was.

From the moment I was born, I have been the girl with the sick sister. All my life bank tellers have given extra lollipops; principals have known me by name. No one is ever outright mean to me. It makes me wonder how I’d be treated if I were like everyone else. (p.129).

The writer explained that statement as internal conflict because the main character Anna had to face difficult situation between sacrificing for her sister Kate, and getting right own body. Anna loved her sister so much since she shared a very special relationship with her, but did not want to be her sister keeper.

  1. Sara Fitzgerald’s Internal Conflict (p.26)

Sara Fitzgerald‘s is an Anna and Kate mother. Sara Fitzgerald is one of the major characters in this novel. The conflict of Sara Fitzgerald appears in the beginning of the story. Sara was initially thought by herself that being a lawyer was the best decision for her, but when she married Brian Fitzgerald and she had children, she changed her decision.

In my previous life, I was a civil attorney. At one point I truly believed that was what I wanted to be – but that was before I‟d been handed a fistful of crushed violets from a toddler. Before I understood that the smile of a child is a tattoo: indelible art.(p.26).

The dialogue as an internal conflict because Sara ultimately preferred to change her job from a lawyer to be a housewife. She loved with her child, too. In this case she reacted to show us that the struggles against her doubts which could be considered as an act of internal conflict.

  1. Brian Fitzgerald’s Internal Conflict (p. 334 – 336)

Brian shakes his head, clearly uncomfortable. “ You don’t know what it’s like,” he says quietly, “until your child is dying. You find yourself saying things and doing things you don’t want to do or say. And you think it’s something you have a choice about, but then you get up a little closer to it, and you see you had it all wrong. He looks up at Anna, who is so still beside me I think she has forgotten to breathe. „I didn’t want to do that to Anna. But I couldn’t lose Kate.”

The dialogue considered as an internal conflict because Brian talked in the court that they were in difficult position. He did not want that Anna to be the donor and he also did not want Kate to die. Brian also told that for thirteen years have been searching the best solution or choices but until this time he did not get the answer.

  1. Anna’s Internal Conflict (p.84 – 85)

Ana‘s internal conflict developed when she still continued to report her parents to the court although this was a very difficult situation for her because she loved her mom very much.

On the other hand, once someone files a petition – like you have – then the respondent – your parent – have to go to court. If your parents really believe you’re not ready to make these kinds of decisions by yourself, they have to present their reasons to me or else risk having ne find in your favor by default.

  1. Sara Fitzgerald’s Internal Conflict (p.156)

She rubs her forehead with one first. My job is take care of my daughters. One of them is extremely ill, and the other one‟s extremely unhappy. And I may not have it all figured out yet, but . . .

The statement was internal conflict because the main character Sara talked in the court that she really loves her two daughters but she was in difficult situation because one of her daughters was extremely ill and the other one was extremely unhappy.

  1. Sara Fitzgerald’s internal conflict (p.388)

Though Sara was frustrated at what Anna was doing, she never hated her or stops loving her.

Anna, I’ll tell her, „I love you. I loved you before I ever saw you, and I will love you long after I’m not here to say it. And I know that because I’m a parent, I’m supposed to have all the answer, but I don’t. I wonder every single day if I’m doing the right thing. I wonder if I know my children the way I think I do. I wonder if I lose my perspective in being your mother, because I’m so busy being Kate’s. (p. 388)

Based on that statement, the internal conflict appeared when Sara realizes that she went wrong in some aspects of her parenting, and then she realized that she neglected Jesse and Anna. A mother was always the one to feel the deepest connection with her child, and that was why Sara was much more devoted to taking care of Kate.

  1. Sara Fitzgerald’s Internal Conflict (p.390)

Another proof that showed Sara faces a hard time being a mother was when she was on her capacity as a lawyer in a courtroom against her daughter, Anna. It showed when Sara answered Campbell‘s question.

In my life, though, that building was on fire, one of my children was in it – and the only opportunity to save her was to send in my other child, because she was the only one who knew the way. Did I know I was taking a risk? Of course. Did I realize it meant maybe losing both of them? Yes. Did I understand that may be it wasn’t fair to ask her to do it? Absolutely. But also knew that it was the only chance I had to keep both of them. Was it legal? Was it moral? Was it crazy or foolish or cruel? I don’t know. But I do know it was right. (Picoult 2004:390)

Based on the statement above the writer explains that the statement as internal conflict. Sara‘s answer to Campbell question could be conclude that Sara would do everything which would be the best way to save Kate‘s life while someone would suffer as the result of saving Kate‘s life.

  1. External Conflict 
  1. Kate’s External Conflict with Nature (p. 31) 

“Leukemic” I repeat. The word is runny, slippery, like the white of an egg. Dr Farquad nods. “Leukemia is blood cancer.” Brian only stares at her, his eyes fixed. “What does that mean?”

The conflict as external conflict because the character Kate fight the sickness with nature inflicted upon her thus conflict versus nature is Kate diagnosis of cancer.

  1. Sara Fitzgerald’s External conflict with society (p.100)

Sara faced an external conflict when she has been invited to a TV show because of her baby unorthodox conception.

We didn‟t ask for a baby with blue eyes, or one that would grow to be six feet tall, or one that would have an IQ of two hundreds. Sure, we asked for specific characteristic – but they‟re not anything anyone would ever consider to model human traits. They‟re just Kate‟s traits. We don‟t want a super baby; we just want to save our daughter‟s life. (p.100)

The conflict is external conflict with society because Anna was created as a designer baby. Anna was created as the perfect match for her sister Kate, who is dying from cancer. She does not care about what people say about her decision. She keeps on her decision and she want to save the baby who will save her daughter‘s life.

  1. Anna’s External Conflict with Kate (p.374)

“Do you think it would work?” I asked. A kidney transplant?‟Kate looked at me, “It might.” She learned over, her hand on the light switch. “Don‟t do it,” she repeated, and it wasn‟t until I heard a second time that I understood what she wants really saying.‖ (p. 374).

It is an external conflict because the main characters Anna fight with another character Kate. The statements explain that Anna really wants to help Kate by giving her kidney but Kate rejects it because she was sick with all the treatments.

  1. Anna’s External Conflict with her Parents (p.18)

“There’s way too much to explain, and so I do the best I can. “It‟s not God. Just my parents,” I say. “I want to sue them for the rights to my own body.” (p.18)

That statement is an external conflict because the main character Anna sues her parents in a medical emancipation suit to allow her to control over her own body or to get right for her own body.

  1. Anna’s External Conflict with Sara Fitzgerald’s (p.49-50)

“Mom?‟ Kate asks. „What‟s going on?‟ „I have no idea.‟ She unfolds the papers. I‟m close enough to read the over her shoulder. THE STATE OF RHODE ISLAND AND PROVIDENCE PLANTTIONS, it says right across the top, official as can be. FAMILY COURT FOR PROVIDENCE COUNTY. IN RE: ANNA FITZGERALD, A.K.A. JANE DOE. PETITION FOR MEDICAL EMANCIPATION.

Based on the statement, the writer explains that it is an external conflict because the main character Anna shows her disappointed by reporting Sara as her parent to the court.

  1. Sara Fitzgerald’s External Conflict with Jesse (p.88-89)

Another conflict happens between Sara and Jesse right after Anna and Sara came from Judge De Salvo‘s office. Sara who was in bad mood was angry because she thought that Anna‘s decision will send her sister to death and the result of her anger was Jesse feeling neglected.

Jesse turns off the television. “She made you talk to a judge?” Damn, Anna. My mother closes her eyes. “Jesse, you know, now would be a good time for you to leave.” You don’t have to ask me twice” he says, his voice full of broken glass. …”I have one child who’s just signed her sister’s death sentence, and I’m supposed to cool off?” (p. 88-89).

In this chapter the writer explain that the statement is an external conflict because the main character Sara disappointed with Jesse. Jesse does not care about his family conflict.

  1. Anna’s External Conflict with Sara Fitzgerald (p.52)

“I think we need to give Anna a chance to explain. We agreed to give her a chance to explain, right?” I duck my head. “I don’t want do it anymore.” That ignites my mother. „Well, you know Anna, neither do I. In fact, neither does Kate. But it’s not something we have a choice about (p. 52)

According to this, the writer explains that the statement as an external conflict because Anna told her mother Sara that she did not want to do any surgeries. Anna wants to live normally. She wants to have a long life without any fears.

  1. Anna’s External Conflict with Kate (p.375)

“Anna loves her sister, Kate and she realizes what she is doing probably will bring Kate to the death but Kate wants to do that. Sometimes she knows that Anna is hopes the same idea. “Anna, do you love your sister?”        Of course.‟  “But you were willing to an action that might kill her?”…. I thought it was that she wanted.” He goes silent; and I realize at that moment: he knows. Inside me, something breaks. “It was…it was what I wanted, too.” (p. 375)

The statement is an external conflict because Anna loves her sister very much, but Anna does not want to be donor anymore. She realizes that what she doing right now can bring Kate to the death.

  1. Anna’s External Conflict with her Parents (p.20-21)

Anna‘s also feels angry with her parents because her parents do not pay attention to her unless they need Anna‘s blood or other things for Kate. Anna knows if she stops to be a donor for Kate, Kate will die, but she still continues her reports because she thinks it would never be stopped.

“Did you tell your parents you don’t want to donate a kidney?” “They don’t listen to me.” “They might, if you mentioned this.” She looks down, so that her hair covers her face. “They don’t really pay attention to me, except when they need my blood or something. I wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for Kate being sick. “They had me so that I could save Kate,” the girl explains.

Based on the data that have been analyzed, the writer conclude that in this research, there were two main types of conflicts; the internal conflict and external conflict. The writer found ten internal conflicts as a data and sixteen external conflicts as the data..


Both the theory of internal and external conflict explains how the conflict of Sara Fitzgerald grows. An internal conflict meant that Sara had to struggle against her doubts or feeling. In this case when Sara needed to decide something to make an important choice but some of her decisions to save Kate‘s life makes her life becomes worse.  It is hard to find the explicit evidence of internal conflict of Sara Fitzgerald in the novel because she prefers to push away her doubts, fears and worry. External conflict is a conflict when a character struggles with an outside force or problem. Sara comes to a big fight with her children because Sara always thinks about Kate‘s health. The conflict again develops when Anna realizes that her life is more important rather than just giving everything that Kate‘s need. The conflict stops when Anna wins the trial and climax comes when Anna dies in a car accident 


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