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Antigone And 9-11-01 Essay, Research Paper
Sophocles was well-versed in Tragedy, and these days everyone in America is
as well. We are discovering what it is to be vulnerable, what is it to feel
suffering and torment, and how to let loose a flood of emotions. Not
surprisingly, these are some of the major purposes and functions of a Greek
Tragedy, according to Aristotle anyway. The citizens of Ancient Greece went to
see these very plays, Antigone and Oedipus Rex that is, and learned life
lessons, and why it is necessary to cleanse oneself of one’s emotions; the same
things we Americans are learning. There are many things that these two important
plays have in common with the situation going on in America at this time.
First off, everyone has hubris. I have it, you have it, we ALL have it. I
can think of many instances that are related to the “tragedy” in which America
shows an immense amount of hubris. For one, so many Americans have begun to
think that all Arabs and Muslims are out to get them. Hate crimes are many in
areas where many followers of Islam live. On the news last night I watched a man
describe how he was confronted by a gun-toting neighbor, and the man yelled that
he was not a Muslim, even though he was wearing a turban, the sign of many
Islamic men. It is a shame that he had to deny his religion for the sake of his
life. That specifically relates to Antigone who would have been forced to go
against her Gods and her ideology for the sake of her life. Another example of
hubris that comes to mind is the way many Americans think this country is
invincible. We refuse to believe anything can happen to us because frankly,
nothing has. We’ve carved out our little niche of the all-powerful country and
we refuse to dig out of it. “NO,” they say, “We cannot be bombed, we cannot
experience any kind of terrorism. It will not happen.” There are also some who
think that war is the only way to retaliate, and that military retaliation is
the only way to solve our problem. Now, I’m no diplomat, but I know that there
must be other ways to solve this problem. If we go to war against a man and a
few isolated groups of terrorists, it will be a big mistake. The Taliban is
violently against the United States, and will use all of their power to win,
which would be easy for them in a country like Afghanistan, a country Russia in
its powerful era could not beat. Osama bin Laden is so good at hiding, we
haven’t been able to find him all this time, what makes us think we could kill
him now? I know that for some, we must try, but we would be killing hundreds of
innocent Afghan people (who do not support the Taliban) in the meantime. But I
digress. Hubris can also been seen amongst the Americans who refuse to see the
side of the issue from the Middle Eastern standpoint. Radical Muslims really
have no reason to like us, and I for one, have wondered why something like this
hasn’t happened yet.
In Oedipus Rex one can easily see the fumes of hubris rising from the Theban
streets. When Oedipus refuses to see that it is himself making the women and
dogs give birth to dead babies, that is hubris.
So shall you see me, as of right, with you, venging this
country and the God
together. Why, `tis not for my neighbors’ sake, but
mine, I shall dispel this
plague-spot; for the man, whoever it may be, who
murdered him, lightly might
hanker to serve me the same. I benefit myself in aiding
He does not even realize that he is cursing himself. Oedipus also displays this
tunnel-vision quality as Tiresias reluctantly tells him of the curse placed on
him at birth. Oedipus automatically assumes that Creon and Tiresias have made a
plan to kill him and steal his throne, or something to the like. The people are
sore afraid of his anger, and the Old Man does not even want to tell Oedipus the
story of his finding in the woods. Maybe you could say the Old Man had hubris,
in that he could only think of not wanting to tell Oedipus the truth. The same
truth that would leave either the city in decay, or Oedipus to stab out his own
eyes. Jocasta displays the same virtues as her husband/son. She sees only that
the Gods must be wrong, because she once had a son, and he did not come back and
marry her. How dumb is this woman? But we must have hope, for she does
eventually get the grand joke played on her family, and, of course, as tragedy
dictates, she kills herself behind the curtain.
In the Tragedy of Antigone there are many who also are consumed by hubris.
Antigone, of course, knows what she must do and buries the body of Polynices.
She cannot see that there is any instance in which her uncle could be right.
Creon is a barbarian to suggest that one should leave a body to rot and be eaten
by animals, especially when he is of your blood. Ismene even displays a little
tunnel-vision when she demands to be killed with Antigone. She refuses to live
if her sister can’t, even though she also refused to help that same sister bury
her brother. “How could I live on alone, without my sister?” she questions
Creon, pleading for him to let her die as well. Haemon also has a significant
amount of hubris, saying he cannot be without Antigone. He tries to plead with
his father first by using flattery, second by using calm, cool reasoning, and
third by throwing a temper tantrum. Needless to say, none of them worked. And if
they had, we wouldn’t be reading a Tragedy, now would we? Haemon is one of my
favorite characters, but in the end he’s just another dead body for Creon to cry
about. Creon is much like his son in his unbending will. He refuses to change
his mind about the Eteocles/Polynices issue. He sends his own niece to a cave to
die of starvation, and does not seem to care. It is not until Tiresias changes
his mind that he thinks maybe he has done something wrong. The Creon of Oedipus
Rex and the Creon of Antigone are two very different men.
Secondly, it seems that all the authorities never see tragedy coming until
it knocks on their doors. America has had the strongest Armed Forces in the
world for a long time, and we have learned to lean back and be lazy. We didn’t
think anyone would ever attack us because of our strength. We know terrorism
happens in other countries, we even go and make peace treaties, but we never
thought that we’d be in this situation. Until now. And it’s not like there
haven’t been signs; we’re just too busy to even think about that possibility.
Remember the truck bombings in Unites States embassies in Africa? Is it true
that we thought those acts wouldn’t hit closer to home? Is that why Bush wanted
a huge missile defense system? Could this have been staged? A war makes a boom
in economy, it is always an opportunity to show off your ability to strategize.
If America won this war against terrorism George W. Bush would go down in
history. But again, I digress. Another thing we were apparently not aware of,
are the Osama bin Laden letters. Bin Laden wrote letters to certain political
persons describing the ways he would best America. He stated that he would beat
us, and he would show America a great tragedy. Did we simply ignore those
In Oedipus Rex, Oedipus showed a great ignorance towards what was happening
until it hit him, shall we say, right between the eyes. He could not believe he
was “the” Oedipus of the curse, and also he did not buy into the Fisher King
Myth, as I stated earlier. Oedipus also could not see that Creon did not want to
be king of Thebes, and he went on and on and on about the ways Creon was going
to steal his throne.
Neither am I, by nature, covetous to be a king, rather than
play the king. Nor
any man who has sagacity. Now I have all things,
without fear, from you;
reigned I myself, I must do much I hated. How were a
throne, then, pleasanter
for me than painless empire and authority?
Creon wonders why in the Hell Oedipus would think he wanted his job when Creon
had all the power, but less responsibility. Tiresias also sensed Oedipus’
ignorance as he refused to tell his king the truth about his birth. I think that
Tiresias was afraid of what Oedipus would do to him, because he had convinced
himself that he was not the reason for Thebes’ destruction.
The rulers in Antigone as well exhibit an inability to see what is surely
about to happen. Creon does not at first believe that Antigone could have buried
her brother. Even though he knows Antigone feels what could be love for her
brother, and he knows of her passionate nature, he doesn’t think she could have
done it. Perhaps this is because he thinks a woman couldn’t do something so
bold, or maybe he doesn’t see what is going on beneath his own roof, obviously
he doesn’t concern himself with the affairs of females. Creon also does not
believe Haemon will kill himself. Reasons for this are numerous. Haemon seems to
be an adolescent pitching a fit, he does not seem to truly love Antigone, and
possibly Creon thinks Haemon would just not do it. “Die as she may, she shall
not die alone,” Haemon proclaims. And later: “My face thou shalt never behold
again.” One would think that if Haemon could get into Antigone’s cave and try to
kill himself, that they could also run away together, but apparently these
thoughts do not run through the brains of those with amorous intentions. Another
thing Creon did not notice in all his running about trying to prevent anyone
from burying his nephew are all the birds gorging on blood. Tiresias sees this
however and informs his king. These birds, he says, are showing how humans act
when they see blood and strife, they go crazy and begin killing one another,
this is what is happening to Thebes. One last thing, Creon does not notice the
outrage over the war and Antigone’s confinement-death. The people are not
pleased that Creon isn’t allowing Polynices to be buried, and he better do
something about it. Fortunately, he does, but it’s just a leeeeeettle bit too
One last thing to comment on before you get tired of reading this.
Everything has a moral to the story. From the chaos in the United States we
should learn to always be on the alert. An entire country should never think it
is invincible, we should never assume we are indestructible. From Oedipus Rex
there are a few things to glean. One is to never let hubris run your life;
though it is impossible not to have some hubris, you can prevent it from
dictating the way you act. It is important to remember that when Oedipus had
eyes he could not see, and once he tore them out, he saw all the wrongness that
he had built his life upon. And the question we should ponder in Antigone, is
when in comes down to it, whose laws are you going to follow, the God’s laws, or
those of man?
There really are a lot of things that Oedipus Rex, Antigone, and the
situation in America have in common. And I was expecting this paper to be short.
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