The term dilemma (from the Greek for double proposal) is used to describe a situation in which there are two possible solutions to an issue, neither of which is without drawbacks. The potential outcomes are often referred to as the horns of the problem, a cliched metaphor that yet serves to distinguish the dilemma from other types of predicaments. It was initially a term used just in logic, but nowadays, its used wherever there is an issue with no clear answer. Choosing between red and blue socks in the mall is not a tough decision. It's terrible to decide between saving a cat and a dog from a burning building.
Some examples of humorous dilemmas include the following:
Sam was eager to order every item on the restaurants menu. However, he could only spend so much, so he had to decide between ordering the bacon and gouda burger or the gourmet mac and cheese prepared with gouda (his favorite cheese). As a gouda enthusiast, I was faced with a difficult choice.
Doing the dishes or cleaning the bathroom was the choice my mother gave me. Neither of those activities sounded like much of a good time to me. Wow, such a difficult situation.
Although the dilemma is a broad concept, distinct varieties arise from various contexts.
The moral or ethical dilemma, in which a protagonist must decide between two wrong choices, is a standard literary device. When faced with a moral problem, choosing the path that seems like it would lead to the least amount of trouble is tempting, yet doing so often leads to adverse outcomes despite the potential for positive ones. An often-cited illustration is a phrase robbing from the rich to give to the needy.
The age-old question of priority. If a chicken sprang from an egg, I have no idea where it came from. When the egg arrived first, who laid it? If the egg did. Also, who did the laying if the egg came first?
The Prisoners Dilemma is a timeless dilemma frequently featured in thrillers. It involves two individuals who will incur varying penalties depending on the others actions. The pattern that it follows:
If A gives up B, A will suffer lesser harm (and vice versa). If both A and B turn each other in, they should get the maximum sentence. For both A and B to get off with the minimum sentence, they must hand over the other.
The Sophies Choice problem, so-called after the novel of the same name, is one in which one option will inevitably result in the undesirable outcome of death or destruction for the other option.
Any difficulty between antagonistic parties in a story is considered a conflict (usually a protagonist and some form of antagonist or antagonizing force). Its a staple of storytelling and cant be missing from any book. The essence of a problem is that it forces the protagonist to make a difficult decision.
An exciting issue forces the protagonist to make a tough decision and propels the plot. It heightens the drama and intrigue of a story by dictating the course of events and attempting to make readers care about the storys resolution.
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