relevance of antigone story in modern society
Relevance of Antigone story in modern society
The story of Antigone by Sophocles is about the confrontation between Antigone, the daughter of the deceased King Oedipus, and her uncle Creon, the reigning ruler of Thebes. The story opens with the tragic death of Oedipus sons; Eteocles and Polynices. The two brothers killed each other in a supremacy battle to take the kingdom of Thebes. Each son was to rule the throne in alternate years, but when Eteocles declined to relinquish power, Polynices waged a war in retaliation, resulting in their deaths. Their uncle Creon, who became king, gave a decree to bury Eteocles with honor as the defender of the kingdom while Polynices’ body left to rot as punishment for being a traitor. When Antigone’s efforts to persuade her sister Ismene to bury their brother proved futile, she ignored the king’s order and buried Polynices herself. This act of disobedience resulted in severe punishment by a furious King Creon (Söderbäck 36). Some moral lessons can be drawn from Sophocles’ story that apply to routine life. This paper focuses on the themes of justice, pride, and gender.
Sophocles’ story highlights the theme of justice and the need to uphold what is right. Antigone fearlessly challenged the King’s order to leave her brother’s body to rot. Such a stance is comparable to the contemporary controversies on the fight for human right. In 2014, for example, civil rights movements protested worldwide when the bodies of passengers from the Malaysian Airlines Flight tragedy were left unattended in an open field for almost a week (Worth 1). Even today, in a world governed by pop culture and modernization, people are willing to die for their steadfast beliefs in protecting the right to life and justice, proving that the human conscience is still alive. Antigone’s defiance of the authority and subsequently sacrificing herself for the greater good challenges the status quo. Antigone’s action brings to the mind the horrific incidence in Egypt, where a man set himself on fire in protest against an oppressive government. The defiance by such individuals indicates a steadfast devotion to acting according to the guidance of their conscience, as well as a commitment to do what is right, and not to abide by laws that are sometimes draconian (Freeland 1).
Pride is best symbolized by Creon’s character and actions. Creon selfishly uses his position as king and creates an arbitrary law whose violation is punishable by death. Also, Creon was full of pride to follow the advice from his son Haemon against punishing Antigone. Even worse, prophet Tiresias warned him that the gods disapproved his decree on Polynices, but he never heeded any of the warnings (Goldhill 58). For this reason, Creon’s pride cost him his son and wife, leaving him hopeless. This lesson is relevant in today’s society. For instance, governments in mature democracies are required to consult widely with various stakeholders and citizens before implementing new laws rather than ratifying such laws against the will of the majority. This arises out of the need for the government to evaluate feedback and come up with an agreeable plan for implementation. Moreover, it reduces the risk of confrontations with citizens and lobby groups, in addition, to enhances public trust. Countries that have ignored this fundamental canon have plunged into chaos and civil strife resulting from the ratification of draconian laws against the will of the people, a situation similar to that of King Creon.
The subject of gender in Sophocles’ story is exemplified by the role of women in a patriarchal Greek society. Antigone’s defiance is important in understanding women empowerment. She challenges the subjective rules of the ancient Greek culture that view women as passive. Even when Creon acknowledges that he may be wrong, his negative attitude against submitting to a woman’s legitimate concern does not allow him to relent (Goldhill 165). The spite against Antigone eventually leads to Creon’s misfortune. Antigone’s fight for an inclusive society is comparable to the contemporary feminism quest for gender equality, particularly concerning the rights of female humans (Söderbäck 28). An example is the UN Women champions for acceleration of gender equality and the empowerment of women in the society. Furthermore, women’s progress has seen the rise of female leaders worldwide as presidents and queens, such as in Brazil and the United Kingdom respectively (Aleem 43). It should be apparent that the position of women and their contribution to the society is key in fostering development. Although the environments under which Antigone advocated for equality was vastly different from the current terrain, the ideology is the same.
The story of Antigone represents the dilemma in the society today. By highlighting the struggles of a fearless woman, the story addresses timeless and universal complexities of humankind. It goes beyond the mere mention of Antigone’s challenges, but deeply symbolizes the conflict between morals and ethics in the society. The story is about justice, pride, and gender. Justice is explained by Antigone’s relentless attitude to die for what she believes is right. Pride is attributed to Creon’s failure to heed advice, leading to distraction and hopelessness. Gender acknowledges the role and progress of women in the society while praising the efforts of women leaders in male-dominated professional fields. All these topics are eminent in today’s society. Besides, the story functions as a source of compelling interpretations for scholars, activists, and students.
Aleem, Shamim. Women, Peace, and Security: (an International Perspective). Albany, NY: Xlibris LLC, 2013. Print.
Freeland, Charles. Antigone, in Her Unbearable Splendor: New Essays on Jacques Lacan’s the Ethics of Psychoanalysis. Albany, NY: the State University of New York Press, 2013. Print.
Goldhill, Simon. Sophocles and the Language of Tragedy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Print.
Söderbäck, Fanny. Feminist Readings of Antigone. Albany: the State University of New York Press, 2010. Print.
Worth, Robert. “How a Single Match Can Ignite a Revolution.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 2011. Web. 13 Oct. 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/23/weekinreview/23worth.html?_r=0>.