Antigone — Who’s right?

Who is right at the beginning of Antigone?  Which character do you admire the most?  Which do you identify with?

  • Antigone, who insists on burying her brother, even though he invaded her city and killed her other brother?
  • Creon, who has to protect the city and maintain order by making it illegal to bury or mourn Polynices, who invaded the city and killed his own brother?
  • Ismene, who doesn’t break the law, but who stands up for her sister? 
  • By the way, is Antigone right to deny Ismene the privilege of standing with her?

 In my own opinion, everyone is right — sort of.  Antigone loved both of her brothers, and she didn’t want either of them to be left unburied and unmourned.   Who can blame her for that?  I also admire her spunk; she’ll be executed, rather than let her dead brother go unburied.  I love the way she confronts Creon.  She’s clear in her reasoning, and she doesn’t give in to any of his arguments.  In fact, I think that she has better arguments throughout her quarrel with Creon.  Then again, Creon has his points.  And he has a huge problem, which I sympathize with:

One thing I learned early on (back when I was trying to be a school administrator) was that backing off of a disciplinary decision or failing to enforce a rule always created problems.  So from the teacher/administrator/disciplinarian point of view, I sympathize with Creon.  He’s dealing with a very unstable situation:  He just took power in a city state that has lived through a foreign invasion — led by one of their own citizens.  Now he is the new, unproven king.  If he backs down, or does something that causes him to be perceived as weak, he might have to deal with another invasion — more instability, which would be bad for everyone.  On the other hand, the person who has defied him is his own neice — who is engaged to his son.  Whatever decision he makes, he will not sleep easily. 

This dilemma would lead me to doubt my own decisions.  Antigone, on the other hand, does not seem to feel any such doubts.  Most of her family is already dead. (Grandfather — killed by her father — Grandmother/Mother — suicide — Father — Dead, after blinding himself and going out into exile in the desert — and her brothers — both dead after killing each other in a civil war).  Since she’s lived through all of that, so the punishment of death would not be much of a deterrant.  Having no fear of death makes her choice a no-brainer:  She has to bury her brother.  But this certainty makes me less sympathetic to her.  I can’t imagine ever having that level of certainty.

But I can’t stand Ismene’s idea that it’s OK to allow the injustice of leaving her own brother be ignored.  I also find it nauseating that she tries to take responsibility for burying him, even when she had nothing to do with it. 

I see a little bit of myself in all three:  Creon, who makes a bad call and then feels like he has to stick with it, even though he probably doesn’t agree with it, and Ismene, who sees things going completely wrong but won’t act, and Antigone, who stands up and does what she knows is right.  In the end, I can find sympathy for all three of them, even though I think that Antigone shows me something good.

About englishparsons

A happy English teacher with massive potential for growth. Trying to share the best I have to offer with the teaching world.
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