Antigone Filial Loyalty and Problem W/ Authority
Remember how Penelope promised to pick a suitor once she was done weaving that burial shroud and how she would undo some of the parts she made later on that night to buy Odysseus some time to come back home to her? It wasn’t just about love; it was about loyalty. Loyalty doesn’t just mean perpetually sticking up for someone/something. It goes deeper than that. Loyalty is unshakable faith, even in the impossible. It’s not about right or wrong, smart or stupid; it’s about disregarding what others think and fighting for yourself, for where you think and feel you should be.
Family is like that, too. No family is perfect. They can drive you insane, inflict the deepest wounds, yet we’ll always come back to them in the end. Blood that runs in the family is like a river; they may come from diverging paths, but they’ll always end together (merge) at some point. That’s loyalty: knowing that no matter where life takes you, you’ll always come back to where you came from. In Antigone by Sophocles, our tragic heroine is the perfect example of filial loyalty. In Oedipus Rex, she is but a child who saw her father suffer pain and humiliation under the cruel had of fate.
In Oedipus at Colonus, she accompanied her father in exile. She was very loving and devoted to him and when Oedipus died, she went back to Thebes to take care and support her brothers, Eteocles and Polyneices. Antigone is a straightforward and stubborn woman. She knows what’s right and she knows that to do. She was intensely loyal to the gods. She believes in the divine laws and disregards those which were made by man, and in this case, Creon. Creon symbolizes the state or the government. One thing I’ve noticed about this piece is that our heroine, Antigone is that she has her own concept of “authority”.
In a way, she has this notion that no man, however powerful they are, can force her to conform or follow his laws. She has a firm set of priorities and beliefs. She has unshakable faith and unwavering love for her family and would give up just about anything to honor them. I think the fact that it was the declared that the act of burying her brother would be illegal was a good enough reason for her to go on and do so. Aside from her love and devotion to her deceased brother, Antigone had very little respect for laws made and enforced by her fellow human beings.
The problem with authority is that it tends to give people a false sense of control, turns them into imperious control-freaks. They exert too much of their influence on others and set high standards for their behavior. They expect to be followed, leaving absolutely no room for people to grow and improve because of rigid rules of conduct. When her two brothers perished at each other’s hand, Creon was made king. Creon, was their mother’s Jocasta’s brother, and so by sentencing Antigone, his niece to death for the act of burying his nephew can be considered as an act of betrayal.
Creon gave Eteocles a proper burial complete with all the rituals but left Polynices rotting in the sun, exposed to scavengers and prohibited the people to pay their respects. They would be sentenced to death because of their insubordination. This angered Antigone and being the loving and faithful sister that she was, went on and buried him anyway. Death was the price she had pay for burying her brother, and yet she did not hesitate one bit. As opposed to her sister Ismene, who in the beginning said, “I do them [the dead] no dishonor…but defy the city?
I have no strength for that. ” (92-93) which clearly shows that she does not have the same conviction Antigone has for their family. Despite the fact that she refused to burring Polynices, when she heard that Antigone was being sentenced to death, she too accepted partial blame for the deed. This was in itself, her way of showing her love and loyalty for her sister. Evidently, this is yet another tragedy by Sophocles. In the first two plays, it was quite obvious that his children would more or less suffer as Oedipus did. Aristotle’s patterns of a tragedy are clearly evident.
The peripiteia or the reversal of fortune is when Creon ordered Polyneices to not be buried to establish his reign and show the people that he was capable of ruling the kingdom. Antigone’s hamartia or moral defect, would be her continuous loyalty to her family. Antigone was executed and Creon’s son, Haemon, madly in love with his fiancee, Antigone killed. His wife then commits suicide because of the overwhelming pain she must have felt in losing her son. Creon, then realizes that the recent chain of events were ultimately because of his pride and doing.
He continued to live on with so much pain and despair, never forgetting that all he had lost was all that was dear to him. This is the catharsis that sums up this beautiful and effective tragedy. Antigone is just like any other human being, fueled by the insatiable desire to prove her worth in the eyes of other people. She is driven by her desire to be somebody else, to be seen as more than who or what she really is. When she fails or falls, she is determined to stand up again and continue the fight. She refuses to be seen as weak. In this way, she appears to be strongest in moments of adversity.