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Self Obligation, Patriotic Obligation, or Family Obligation? I’m with Antigone

By Abby Peloquin, IV Form

 

Self Obligation, Patriotic Obligation, or Family Obligation? I’m with Antigone

Throughout Antigone, the question of what is most important in the lives of the characters varies greatly. Creon professes his deepest devotion to his country through his actions concerning Polynices and Antigone; Antigone, on the other hand, remains steadfast in her beliefs in family as she sacrifices her life and marriage for the sake of burying her brother. I mirror the meritorious attitude of Antigone – my family, more than any material or human law–is the most essential part of my life. They are the basis of my existence, the platform upon which I draw myself together and carry on my journey of life, and the arms that hold me and guide me through the turmoil set before me.

Some, like Creon, would question my obligation. When speaking to Antigone, Creon argues his side with brutal direction and intention: “Kings, my girl, have other things to do than to surrender themselves to their private feelings” (Anouilh 46). In this single statement, Creon gives his definition of patriotic obligation: that one’s service to his country is far more important than service to himself or his family. This is a shocking statement when one considers he did not even want to be king! Previously, in Oedipus Rex, Creon wanted anything but to be king: “I, at least, I was not born with such a frantic yearning to be a king—but to do what kings do. And so it is with everyone who has learned wisdom and self-control. As it stands now, the prizes are all mine—and without fear” (Grene 9).  But as he is seen more presently in Antigone, Creon’s entire being is absorbed in the role as king and military leader.

The matter of self-obligation is still and always will be credible. The mere basis of human existence is within one’s self, and if your life is threatened, instinct tells you to protect yourself. However, it is a true act of sacrifice and selfless honor to know when selfishness can be traded for selflessness in the face of adversity. Creon is cowardly in his refusal to bury Polynices based on Polynices’ civic betrayal and for the sake of proving his own rule over the people. The people follow the burning torch example he sets, thus solidifying by him as a strong, worthy and powerful leader. Contrary to his actions, however, there are harsh ramifications in terms of Antigone’s reaction, and in the end, the loss of his entire direct family. It brings about the question of whether he understood the situation from the perspectives of Polynices and Antigone. If he had been Polynices, he would have been desperate for burial as well.

Antigone is a woman to whom I humbly relate. She is unswaying in her loyalty and obligation to her family. She blatantly defies Creon’s standards and her obligation to the law for the sake of her family: “Had I been a scullery maid washing my dishes when the law was read aloud to me, I should have scrubbed the greasy water from my arms and gone out in my apron to bury my brother” (Anouilh 44). I, like Antigone, would thrust my hands deep into the dirt of the world to bury a family member, even if the cost was shame and death. My family, particularly my cousins and brothers, is the strongest point of love and support in my life, whether giving or receiving. Antigone reflects the person within myself in her loyalty to her brother, even when it means turning against civic law to do what is right.

Until the end, Creon and Antigone’s internal moralities struggle to repress each other. It is only when Haemon dies, when Antigone is dead, when Eurydice commits suicide, and Creon is left alone with no family and solely his country to follow and lead in the same breath, does he realize his choices and his ill-placed devotion have landed him with the demon he inadvertently created, thinking it was all he wanted. In the closing portion, the Chorus makes a point while speaking about the “Antigones” that have risen throughout the ages since she first confronted Creon. A phrase that could strike into human hearts, he says: “Their cause is always the same – a passionate belief that moral law exists, and a passionate regard for the sanctity of human dignity” (Anouilh 71).

Abby Peloquin is a IV Form boarding student from Huntsville, AL. She lives in Thieriot and enjoys music, sports, and ceramics.

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