Man Vs God Essay, Research Paper
Conflict is a necessary element in any literary work. Conflict is brought
about when two opposing forces come to grips with each other. In Sophicle?s
Antigone, both external and internal conflicts arise when the will of an
individual opposes the will of the majority. Throughout the Greek tragedy,
either side of the conflict is clearly represented by a single character with a
strong belief. Each character?s convictions are tested and challenged
throughout Antigone, ultimately resulting in one character forsaking his or her
belief, revealing both his own true nature and the nature of his or her belief.
The central conflict presented in Antigone, the laws of man versus those of
the gods, is commonly found in many Greek tragedies. A specific character
represents each side of the conflict; while Antigone is a devout follower of the
laws of the gods, Creon and his cohorts represent the arrogant laws of man. The
opposing forces come to grips when Antigone, in accordance to the gods? law
stating that ?Death longs for the same rites for all,? attempts to bury her
brother, Polynices (Sophicles 35). This action is a violation of Creon?s ?proclamation
. . . forbid[ing] the city to dignify him with a burial, mourn at all? (Sophicles
24). This breech of godly law is Creon?s way of punishing Polynices for being
a traitor in a recent war. Even though Creon is king, Antigone believes so
strongly in the authority of the gods that she refuses ?to break [their laws],
/ not out of fear of [Creon?s] wounded pride? (Sophicles 33). Creon?s
arrogance is clearly manifested in his attitude towards the gods? authority.
He refers to his own decree as an order from ?the high throne of judgment? (Sophicles
47). Antigone, however, is humble, and acknowledges that Creon?s orders do not
correspond with, nor do they override ?that Justice, dwelling with the gods /
beneath the earth? (Sophicles 33).
One side must eventually yield when two opposing forces clash with one
another. In Sophicle?s Antigone, the gods prevail over man, as is common in
Greek tragedies in which man versus the gods is the central theme. Antigone
fights to the bitter end, even after Creon sentences her to death, for ?[her]
reverence for the gods? (Sophicles 50). She, in fact, seems to fully accept
her martyrdom, as she believes that it ?is the pleasure of the gods? she is
so dedicated to (Sophicles 49). For Antigone, ?to meet . . . doom . . . is
precious little pain,? when compared to denying her brother a burial and
betraying the gods, which ?would have been agony? (Sophicles 33). Creon,
however, does not realize his misdoing until after he has carried out Antigone?s
sentence. He is reluctant to admit that he ?know[s] [he] can?t defile the
gods — / no mortal has the power? (54). It is only after ?disasters sent by
the gods,? such as the death of his wife and son, that he fully realizes the
magnitude of his hubris towards the gods and it?s consequences. It is after
these tragedies that Creon relinquishes his beliefs and acknowledges that ?the
guilt is all [his]? (Sophicles 63). The chorus summarizes Creon?s ultimate
realization in agreeing that ?the mighty words of the proud are paid in full
with mighty blows of fate, and at long last, those blows will teach us wisdom?
(Sophicles 65). It is indeed true that Creon gained wisdom from his mistakes,
only all too late.
Upon Creon?s change of heart, the nature of his beliefs is revealed. This
change reveals that his beliefs were not truly evil, only unwise. He
acknowledges this when his son is found dead, saying ?[his] own stupidity?
was the cause of his death (Sophicles 62). The misfortune that befall Creon as a
result of his arrogance, reveals a profound truth; ?that of all the ills
afflicting men the worst is lack of judgment? (Sophicles 61). Creon?s
further confessions concerning his poor judgment, declaring his stubborn actions
to have been ?so senseless, so insane,? support the idea that Creon?s
beliefs were not evil, only unwise (Sophicles 62). Simply put, the nature of his
beliefs was not baneful or corrupt, only human.
This breed of conflict, the will of human nature versus that which is
acknowledged as moral and upright, is certainly still relevant to readers in the
twentieth century, as it will be to readers of further generations, forever.
This conflict can be seen in almost any aspect of modern life. It is seen today
in the current presidential election. One can see, with a little foresight, that
each candidate?s equally strong will to become president could effect the
masses in an adverse way. The possibility of involvement of legal trials
concerning the election could undermine the effectiveness of the electoral
process and effect United States citizen?s freedom to choose. This modern
example of how the will of an individual can create conflict and adversely
effect the masses supports the idea that conflicts similar to those presented in
Antigone are still present today.