Death, and our relationship with it, is a major theme in Antigone. We as a society possess a duality of attitudes towards death: acceptance and denial.
This scenery perfectly fits the common theme of the play. The way that the tomb was a symbolic reflection of how we as humans perceive death was so complex and well-woven into the story. Antigone’s death wish, such as this exert from page 88, “I gave myself to death,/long ago, so I might serve death (pg.88)”. Further, from page 89, “Commit cruelty on a person long enough/ the mind begins to go (pg. 89)”. The death wish possessed by Antigone is confronted by Antigone herself, and observed and reported by Ismene. Given Antigone’s apparent death wish, her imprisonment in a bridal tomb is fitting, yet ironic. The bridal temple ironically ties itself to the line from page 88. Antigone has been wedded to death. Further, Antigone’s suicide is representative of everything Creon wants to avoid. He wanted her to abstain from death, and be forced to live in misery. However, with her suicide, she officiates her vow to death, within her bridal tomb. This ironic, yet accepted and desired death shows the fearlessness of Antigone. She aligned herself with death, and became content with the idea of life simply ending. The embracing of death is contrary to conventional human nature. The acceptance of death while youthful is courageous and enlightened. Further, this symbolizes one half of the duality towards death: acceptance, the contrarian, yet brave, attitude. The ultimate acceptances are Antigone finding a way to hang herself in an inescapable prison. This action symbolizes two things: the relentlessness of time and eventual death, and 2), taking one’s own life is the ultimate acceptance and embracing of death. This was why I love the setting and scenes of this play, they are symbolic of character’s attitudes towards themes and tones of the play. The scenery forces Antigone to show her true colours and allows us to see how courageous and wise this young girl truly is. Antigone’s courage evokes a few questions, such as, How do personal or cultural experiences shape how we perceive death? Why do we fear death? And, can true satisfaction be achieved, if we refuse to believe that everything is temporary?
The second, more human, side of duality when faced with death is Creon. Whereas Antigone shows an almost inhuman acceptance of death, Creon showed a fear of death. An example of this is on page 125, “harbour of death, so choked, so hard to cleanse!-/Why me? Why are you killing me? (pg. 125)”. The second half of the tone towards death is denial, and this is a shining example. Creon is both terrified and confused at the prospect of simply no longer existing. Death to him has always felt like a far off concept, a fate that he has sealed for many, but he had never been truly affected by the waves of grief. We all know death is the only certainty in life, but we seem to acknowledge it when it’s on our doorstep. We as a society tend to not think about others suffering, until we experience our own. It is nearly impossible to fully empathize without our own experience. This feeling of fear and helplessness that Creon feels is a fundamental part of the human experience. Further, the inability to empathize with something we haven’t experienced is humbling and humanizing for Creon’s previously overly-prideful character. This humanizes Creon in a way that allows me to sympathize with him more than I would with the courageous heroine, Antigone.
Reading Antigone had helped me understand some flaws I didn’t even know I had, and has pushed me to address them in a more serious manner. Anyone who knows me will tell you about my infamous stubbornness. My pride can also go unchecked at times. Before reading Antigone, I never really considered the consequences of the unconscious biases that stem from pride and stubbornness. It sometimes makes it difficult for me to take constructive feedback. This prevents me from embracing a growth-oriented mindset, and materializes as a large obstacle to personal growth. However, after reading this text, I will look into ways to self-regulate my stubbornness and pride, and how to whittle away at biases and fallacies that have taken root because of these oversights.