I strongly agree with the statement “there is no literature without conflict”. It applies well to the play Antigone by Jean Anouilh. The most significant conflict exists between Antigone and Creon the king. Despite this major conflict, there is also another minor conflict between Antigone and Ismene. Conflicts do not have to be between two people. A good example would be whether or not to obey the law, when Antigone decides whether she should take the risk and try to bury her deceased brothers.
In Creon’s point of view, he has to have a conflict to make up his mind whether or not, and how Antigone will be punished after she violates his command. All these conflicts contribute the play a central idea and provide the play with a clear plot. In this case, the whole play is aimed to finish and settle all these conflicts. They provide the play a raise in tension and a climax. Let us first look at the conflict between Antigone and Creon the king.
The relationship between Antigone and Creon is not simply an uncle and niece relationship. Since Antigone and Creon share the same mother, Antigone definitely has a prejudice on her unwanted birth. Moreover, Creon the uncle only became the king because all the sons of Oedipus have died. Instead of saying it is a conflict between Creon and Antigone I rather say it as a conflict of morality and the law, or one versus state.
As we know, the only thing that Antigone wants is to bury her brothers who killed in war years ago, this is no more than basic morality and respect to the dead. However, one of the brothers who helped another country in the war was regarded as a traitor by Creon the king and is thus banned from being buried. By having such a simple conflict, great tension is created from the beginning of the play when Antigone showed her rebellious side when talking to the nurse.
By introducing and surrounding this one big conflict, it helps to emphasize the theme of the play – one versus state. We can see Antigone as the “one” who we readers show sympathy for and Creon as the powerful “state” who controls everything and has the absolute right over the people. In other words, if it was not the existence of this major conflict, the play would become boring to watch and the tragic end will mean nothing because we otherwise would not understand the pressure put on the characters.
Another conflict that is introduced in the play is the conflict or disagreement between Antigone and her sister Ismene. She is much more beautiful than Antigone. Here the conflict begins when Antigone told her the plan of burying the brothers. Ismene said that the law is strong; they must give in to law, in this thing and in worse. Ismene also said that she hopes the dead to forgive her however she is helpless in such circumstance. This shows the two distinct reactions to the law.
This conflict brings out a fact that no one is on Antigone’s side because everyone knows they will not win this fight against the king. This fact contrasts with characters’ tragic deaths at the end, which reminds the reader that if these conflicts were solved in a better and smoother way, the tragedy could be avoided. In conclusion, conflicts in Antigone contribute to the play by giving a central idea, bring out themes and character relationships and also provide a structure with obvious change of tension which makes the play emotional and interesting.