Judgments And Antigone Essay Research Paper Throughout

Judgments And Antigone Essay, Research Paper

Throughout history mankind has always been faced with judgments. According the

Oxford English Dictionary, judgment means ?the mental ability to form an

opinion? (AHD, 454). We are forced to make decisions based on our ?mental

opinions.? Then, one?s actions are based on ?mental opinions? which are

judged by other people. Then there is the inevitable justification of these

actions by other people or the person themselves. According the Oxford English

Dictionary, justify means ?to demonstrate sufficient legal reason for (an

action taken)? (456). Once those actions are justified, they are considered

morally and legally acceptable and are therefore are left alone. However, many

times in a person?s life, some decisions based on judgments are not

justifiable. That is what causes conflict and separation among people. Often

this disparity in perception on judgment leads to crime and punishment. This is

very apparent in young children. If a younger brother bothers his older sibling,

the older sibling often cannot understand why. So he or she feels that the

younger sibling?s action is not justifiable. Since it cannot logically be

justified, the older brother or sister usually decides to punish the younger

sibling by hitting him or her. This leads to crime and punishment. Now it is

difficult for the parents of those children to justify the reason for argument.

So they punish their children by putting them in ?timeout?. And this whole

concept is what underlines both Antigone, by Sophocles and The Reader, by

Bernard Schlink. In both stories, judgments arise and decisions are made based

on those judgments. When those judgments cannot be justified, they are sent to

be judged upon by a higher authority. This is all due to a difference in opinion

which leads back to whether those unjustifiable decisions were considered a

crime that deserve punishment. The focus of this paper is to point out some

decisions based on judgments that could not be justified. It is also a

discussion questions the possibility of justification in these judgments. When a

person thinks of Antigone, his or her first thought is usually, ?Oh yes, I

know her, she was that tragic hero.? This shows that Antigone did something

right, and was falsely accused because one, heroes do not ever do anything

wrong, and two, something tragic or uncalled for happened to her. Basically,

Antigone lived with her sister in their uncle?s royal house in Thebes. Creon

was king there, and his decisions, opinions, and judgments were the law in

Thebes. Laws that even superceded the laws of the gods. Creon?s power shows

when he and Heamon are having a conversation; Heamon was angered by his fathers

thought to kill his fiancйe and reacted by questioning. ?Protect your

rights? / When you trample down the honors of the gods?? (Schilb 1328). Heamon

was trying to say that Creon?s right to make judgments could not be defended

when those judgments go against the Gods. Creon reacted by saying ?Is that so!

/ Now, by heaven, I promise you, you?ll pay- / taunting, insulting me! Bring

her out,/ that hateful- she?ll die now, here, / in front of his eyes, beside

her groom? (1328-1329). This proves as an example of Creon?s power in

Thebes. Antigone did the worst possible thing in Thebes. She defied the power of

her uncle. After Antigone?s brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, killed each

other in combat, Antigone was saddened. What made her feel worse was that

Polynices was not to be buried and paid respect to because Creon did not like

him. Grief-stricken, Antigone decided that she was going to bury her brother no

matter what the cost. So she went ahead and buried her Polynices. Antigone?s

determination was shown in her conversation with her sister Ismene when Antigone

said: Why not? Our own brothers? burial! / Hasn?t Creon graced one with all

the rites,/ disgraced the other? Eteocles, they say, / has been given full

military honors, / rightly so- Creon?s laid him in the earth/ and he goes with

glory down among the dead. / But the body of Polynices, who died miserably/ -

why, a city-wide proclamation, rumor has it,/ forbids anyone to bury him, even

mourn him. / He?s to be unwept, unburied, a lovely treasure/ for birds that

scan the field and feast to their heart?s content. (1308) Antigone was able to

justify her judgment that it was all right to bury her brother because he

deserved to be mourned just like Eteocles. There was nothing that could have

stopped Antigone from burying her brother. So she listened to her ?mental

opinions? and made a decision to bury Polynices. Creon however, could not make

sense of Antigone?s action to bury her brother. When Creon hears about the

burial of Polynices he reacted by saying ?What? / What man alive would

dare-? (1314). This shows that Creon is not used to being defied by people in

his own kingdom. He even thought that the Sentry committed the crime and said to

him "Yes you did- / what?s more, you squandered your life for silver?

(1316). Pleading for help the Sentry reacts saying ?Oh it?s a terrible thing

when the one who does the judging judges things all wrong? (1316). Creon

answers by saying; ?Well now you just be careful about your judgments- / if

you fail to produce the criminals for me, you?ll swear your dirty money

brought you pain? (1316). A very powerful statement, Creon judged the actions

of others and tried to justify them. However, he could not justify why someone

would go against his word. So in anger he blamed anyone including the Sentry.

That is when the Sentry tells Creon that his perception is out of whack and he

needs to reassess his thoughts. Creon tells the Sentry that unless the Sentry

and his men cannot find the criminal, then the Sentry will be found guilty of

committing the crime. After Creon found out that Antigone committed the crime he

reacted with such shock and said ?Prisoner! Her? You took her- where, doing

what? /? What? / You mean what you say, you?re telling me the truth?/?

What did you see? Did you catch her in the act?? (1318) Since Antigone was

family Creon decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. But after Antigone

admitted that she buried Polynices Creon got angry. He was confused about her

actions and decided to punish her by executing her. Then Antigone and Creon

argue upon whether or not Antigone had done a favor to a traitor. Antigone felt

no remorse for going against her kingdom?s law because in her opinion ?No

matter- Death longs for the same rites for all? (1322). Basically Antigone and

Creon had different opinions on every issue. Antigone felt she was moral for

paying respects to her brother. While Creon thought that Antigone was a criminal

because she defied his perception and buried a traitor. The action based on

judgments that Antigone took led to her death. And the action that Creon took

based on his judgments led to the death of his son and wife. The death of

Antigone, because of her own judgment and Creon?s actions based on the others

judgments, led to Heamon making the decision based on his own judgments and

decision: to rather die than live without Antigone. This led to the decision of

Eurydice, which was based on all the decisions of judgment made by Antigone,

Creon, and Heamon, to kill herself. And this left Creon all alone because of his

own actions based on his ?mental opinion?. In all of these judgments, the

one thing that gets clouded was the fact that there was no justice. Everyone

lost. Justice was served to no one because they all had different judgments on

the same course of action. So whose judgment was most justified? Well apparently

Martha Nussbaum, a critic, believes that Antigone?s actions can be more

justified. She states: Antigone?s act shows a deeper understanding of the

community and its values than Creon does when she argues that the obligation to

bury the dead is an unwritten law, which cannot be set aside by the decree of a

particular ruler. The belief that not all values are utility-relative, that

there are certain claims whose neglect will prove deeply destructive of communal

attunement and individual character, is a part of Antigone?s position left

untouched by the play?s implicit criticism of her single-mindedness.? (1348)

This goes to show that Antigone?s actions were based on her beliefs that a

person who has died must be paid his or her respects. However, Creon?s actions

were based on a threat which was Antigone?s testing of his authority. So Creon

did not justify Antigone?s actions because he did not want to. He did not want

his power tested. The bottom line is that there was justice in Antigone?s

judgments that led to the crime that she committed by burying her brother. While

evaluating The Reader, one also sees obvious signs of judgment. Some of the

judgments in The Reader include Hanna?s choice to keep it a secret that she

could not read. If Hanna had told the judge that she was illiterate, then she

might not have been convicted because she would have been unable to write the

reports. During World War II, Hanna participated in the heinous crimes against

the Jews in the concentration camps. However, she is portrayed as an innocent

character in the story. When she is with Michael, Hanna seems held-back as if

she is hiding something, rather than the aggressive one might think she is. An

example of Hanna wanting to hold back is when Michael asked Hanna about her

past. Michael expresses his thoughts: ?Things I wanted to know more about had

vanished completely from her mind, and she didn?t understand why I was

interested in what happened to her parents, whether she had had brothers and

sisters, how she had lived in Berlin and what she?d done in the army? (Schlink

39). Hanna simply responded by saying, ?The things you ask, kid!? (39) Hanna

once became outrageous and hit Michael because she thought that he left her

alone on the bike trip. Hanna later becomes aggressive when Michael came on to

the streetcar to visit her. She ignored him, and then later blamed the whole

incident on Michael by saying, ?How should I know why you?re going to

Schwetzingen? How should I know why you choose not to know me? It?s your

business, not mine. Would you leave now?? (47) Besides those occurrences,

Hanna was warm and caring to Michael, and that is why he fell in love with her.

She always ran him warm baths and held him tight at night. Michaels judgment was

based on the fact that there was an unpleasant home environment. He said that

one of the happiest moments in his life was on their bike trip together. Michael

described it by saying, ?We were never happier than in those weeks of April?

(51). He used this justification to spend a lot of time with her and not his

family members. Hanna toyed (made him extremely happy, sad, mad, and made

Michael feel as if he was in love) with young Michael?s emotions, but her

character was not portrayed as one who could commit a crime against people.

Hanna?s judgments were based on the fact that she had to participate in the

concentration camps. She was not ill willed. One of Hanna?s last wishes was to

take her money and donate it to the Jewish League of Illiteracy. Which she did

not even take the credit for, because Michael was told to use the name Hanna

Schmitz, not Frau, which has her real name. Even the lady in Boston was

surprised, but still angry at Hanna when she found out that Hanna could not read

until she went to prison. That is when it became obvious that Hanna did not

write any reports. So, Hanna?s decision based on her judgments to not tell

anyone that she cannot read got her sent to prison. Even Michael?s decision

not to tell anyone, except his father, that Hanna was illiterate until after her

death, kept Hanna in jail. Hanna did not want anyone to experience a life of

illiteracy, so she donated her savings to a literary organization. So to a

certain extent, Hanna was falsely accused and her punishment was unfair.

Although Hanna did hurt other women in the concentration camp, her character

portrayed her as too innocent to have malice towards others. Hanna just probably

followed orders. As an added incentive to get Hanna to hurt others, the other

concentration camp guards probably told her that the Jews were hurting the

German people. Unable to read or write, Hanna probably trusted what she

constantly heard from the guards around her. Hanna probably felt that Jews were

evil because of this and lead to her actions being justifiable in her own mind.

In many ways, Antigone and Hanna are very similar in their course of action.

Antigone knew she was breaking the law because she deep down in her heart felt

that it was her moral obligation to bury Polynices. To an outsider, Antigone is

just another criminal. But as readers, it is apparent that Antigone was only

doing what she believed in. One may feel sympathetic for Antigone, and think

that Creon is blind to not be able to justify Antigone?s action. Her judgments

seem pure and morally correct. In the same manner, Hanna did commit a crime, and

to the outsider she should have been punished. However, readers can justify her

actions based on certain judgments, knowing that the real character of Hanna

could not read the news around her and was oblivious to what was truly going on

in Germany. Hanna probably thought that she was doing a good thing by hurting

Jews, not knowing that it was really Hitler who was evil. A person is able to

justify Hanna?s actions and feel that her sentence in prison was unjust. It is

thought that she wanted to give back to those who could not read because of her

conversation with Michael about where to donate the savings Hanna had. Since

Antigone?s last action based on pure judgment to bury her brother qualified

her as a tragic hero, Hanna?s last wish based on her judgment to donate money

to the Jewish League Against Illiteracy, should also qualify her as a tragic

hero. And that is why they are both very similar. Their actions based on

judgments left others in the story in a stupor. The people in the story could

not justify the actions that either of the two characters took. However, their

actions based on judgments led them to become tragic heroes. In conclusion, it

has been discussed that judgments and how a persons actions based on their

judgments lead others to perceive them in different ways. However, if certain

actions based on judgments are morally unacceptable, and cannot be justified,

then the person must suffer punishment, whether or not they are at fault. Both

Hanna and Antigone were falsely accused because their actions were not justified

properly in the eyes of those who judged them. They may have committed crimes,

but when looked into carefully, it is evident that their judgments were based on

self-beliefs and were not, including Hanna, meant to hurt anyone else. So

judgments are made, one must be sure that we look into others? actions before

they make their own judgments.

Schilb, John and John Clifford. Making Literature Matter: An Anthology for

Readers and Writers. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin?s, 2000. Schlink,

Bernhard. The Reader. New York, NY: Random House, 1995. ?Judgment? The

American Heritage Dictionary. 1994 ed.


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