Paradise and Death Personal Response

“Paradise and Death” written by Eric MacKnight has me pondering over my own ideas of escape and its constant lurid temptations. Much like Odysseus’s many encounters that would inevitably let him escape his troubles I too have options for escape. My troubles may seem trivial when compared to those of the great Odysseus, he had to fight in a war that lasted 10 years, while I just have too much homework. However, this essay proposed the idea of escape, Odysseus never actually had to go home, there were many options in-between. In fact, some of the opportunities he faced as a means of escape were too good to be true. Why would someone turn down an eternity of love with a very beautiful woman, or a chance to live in the past? Both are options I would take without hesitation. My life is in no way similar to Odysseus’ yet I am constantly looking for a way to escape my troubles. Take school for an example, a never-ending struggle of education, starting when you are four and ending when you graduate, either high school, college, or university. There is always that pressure to get the highest level of education possible. After education than what? You are working until you are 60 and that is if you are lucky. I have thought about this a lot and there are several escapes that tempt even the most ambitious of us all. The most obvious of them all is to drop out of school. Why do all this work, only to continue working for the rest of your life? However, the difference between me and Odysseus is dropping out of school is frowned upon whereas Odysseus’ escapes are according to the essay “a kind of paradise”(pg.1). So why? Why don’t I just drop out of school and why doesn’t Odysseus take these simple escapes? Because life is harder than the easiest way out. An education gives life purpose, a job gives life purpose, so do the many other challenging aspects of our life, all of them give us something to live for. For me to live without school would be the most boring this ever and for Odysseus to live without felling, that is to cave into temptation, is a life not worth living. This is perfectly summed up in the last paragraph of the essay and possible my favorite sentence, “For Odysseus, for everyone, unconsciousness is death, and the only life worth living is that peculiarly human life, that life which is pain”(pg. 18).

Not only did this essay have me thinking about life’s choices it was extremely well written. The use of through analyzation, evidence, reasoning and clear writing all contribute to make a truly awe inspiring essay. When I say I do not normally like reading essays I am telling the truth, however this essay had me turning the pages faster than a novel. The one thing that makes it particularly easy to read is clear writing. Each sentence is written with one topic in mind, not overly complicated, and has plenty of evidence to support it. An example of this is on page twelve, “However, we cannot stop at remarking that life in Phaiákia is trivial, or that the Phaiákians are naive.” This is a clear topic sentence that directly outlines what will be said in the following paragraph. One thing my writing is lacking is clarity. I often have an idea in my head and then write it on the page, most of the time the idea that was in my head is only partially translated into words and clear ideas. However when I read over it all I can see is the ideas that are still in my head. Therefore this is one aspect of my writing that I could improve upon and which I have learned from reading this essay. Another thing that I could not help but notice is the amount of analyzation in a single essay. There is almost eighteen pages of it. I find this incredible and another compelling reason to read the entire essay. Analyzation is another big part of writing an essay and I would like to incorporate it as much as possible into my next piece of formal writing.

Antigone – The Acceptance of Death

Antigone proved itself to be true to the genre of tragedy, far more than I could have expected it to be. Full of fortuitous twists, the emotions this play evoked ranged from surprise to remorse as well as the many unexpected feelings in between. One page led to the next and soon enough I was engrossed in a Greek masterpiece, full of love, hate, vengeance and death. Sophocles managed to engage and enthrall me in countless ways. Perhaps it was the stubborn and strong-willed protagonist or the incredulity of the plot, yet either way this play had me intrigued.

Death, the underlying theme of many tragedies was undeniably present in Antigone. Humanity has always been fascinated with death, it has been feared, studied respected and questioned. Antigone is no exception to humanity. Sophocles’ play exploits the realm of embracing death and fearing it, to wish for death and to dread it. This fascinated me. What happens after we die? I am sure that I am not alone when I say that this question has haunted and intrigued me for many years. The play does not answer that one big question, however it discusses our relationship with the thought of dying. The two main characters Antigone and Creon have opposing views. Antigone, a character that I admire, says, “Die I must, I’ve known it all my life” (p. 81, l.513).  Throughout the play she bluntly states that she does not care about death overpowering her, she embraces death, if it means that her brother will receive the burial he deserves. This demonstrates both her view of death and why I admire her as a character. Even if she is put to death as a result of her actions, she is ready to accept responsibility and ready to die. She has a strong sense of self and is willing to risk her life for what she believes in. On the opposing side there is Creon, the man that fears death. In my opinion Creon is a coward, a man who will do anything to avoid pain and loss of power. This fear is subtle and is harder to discern from the text, however it can be seen on page 125 when Creon says, “harbor of death, so choked, so hard to cleanse!-/Why me? Why are you killing me?” (pg. 125). This passage shows the fear in a man who believes his time is up, giving Creon opposite qualities of that of a hero, and illustrating his opposing view to those of Antigone. To me, both of these cases are absolute extremes. Does anyone really want to die? And does anyone really fear death? The answer to these questions, I am sure, would differ dramatically depending on age, health status, mental health, race, religion and culture. But the one thing I cannot help reflecting upon is how these crucial questions are still very much themes in today’s society, and how an author wrote about these timeless topics thousands of years ago?

As previously mentioned, I really admire and respect the character Antigone and all she portrayed. As the elder of two siblings and a observative in nature, I’ve noted obvious differences in family dynamics based on the line up. Oldest is typically the well-behaved golden child, middle is the more spontaneous, and the last is the do-no- wrong baby. As the oldest daughter, Antigone not only stepped out of this stereotype, but strayed as far away from it as she could. Suffering death in the eyes of everyone except her, who believed in something so much she invited it in. She also earned my respect when looking at societal norms of this time, between male and female. In the eyes of the majority, including the ruler Creon, Eteocle’s fought back for what he believed in, dying with respect and chivalry. However when Antigone does something she believes in she dies the dishonorable one, why is that? She as a woman, was not expected to lay her life down for anything. Antigone was supposed to be just another obedient, pretty face, such as her younger but more compliant and favored sister Ismene. Only men were respected for dying for their beliefs, and that was shown in this scenario, being viewed as a stupid girl for doing the very same thing as her male peers. To me, Antigone died an honorable death, just as honorable as Eteocles. It may be argued that the protagonist and the tragic hero of the story is Creon, but to me Antigone took the main role.

Antigone was a play filled with issues and topics that are still relevant today, this is why I enjoyed it so much. Every good piece of writing should raise questions. Antigone certainly did. Questions about death and humans relationship with it, questions regarding the position of a women as a gender and questions about fate and its inescapability. Was Antigone really the one making the decisions or was it all the work of the gods?

Oedipus the King – A Masterpiece

Oedipus the King was an eventful story. Full of twists and turns that left me engaged and puzzled. This tragedy was as tragic as a play can get, with the main character marrying his mother and killing his father. Every second of the book was eventful with either arguments or injuries’ and in some cases, death. There were several main reasons I enjoyed this text for one the way it is written, as a play, and for another dramatic irony and emotional writing that is found on every single page.

Naturally, this was not the first time I had come across the unfortunate story of Oedipus. I had stumbled over it many years ago when I visited Greece, it was a popular bed time story. However this was the first time I had read Sophocles and the play titled Oedipus the King. My first thought when I opened the book was: it’s a play? I had never imagined that the story I read as a child was in fact a Greek play, but let me say this, I am so glad that it was. Without all the “extra” words on the page, the plot and characters were far easier to follow, the arguments felt more real and most importantly it kept you wanting to read the next line, then the next one and the one after that.

Oedipus:                                                                                                        You think you can keep this up and never suffer?

Tiresias:                                                                                                          Indeed, if the truth has any power.

Oedipus:                                                                                                        It does but not for you, old man. You’ve lost your power, stone blind, stone-deaf senses, eyes blind as stone! (l. 420-423)

These few lines illustrate the moreish effect of a play. You want to read the next line. You want to know what Tiresias said next. On top of that there is also a certain freedom when reading a play, your mind can wonder, allowing you to picture the scenes in your head without the author attempting to describe them for you. I struggle to read books, I find it a long and argues task. That however, was not the case for a Sophocles play.

I also enjoyed the emotional writing, dramatic irony and the beautiful poetry, woven throughout the story. Where you least expected it one of the characters would burst out in a big speech, always in well written lines of poetry. These speeches, to me, added an emotional value to the play. One line in particular spoken by Tiresias to Oedipus, “Blind who now has eyes” (l. 516). These five words carry the answer to everything, these five words have such value in the play. As we know Oedipus is blind, not physically but metaphorically, as he can not see what is literally right in front of him. In other words he can not see himself. He is the murder. Tiresias also goes as far as to say “now”, blind who “now” has eyes, foreshadowing and predicting what is to come. Dramatic irony added some comedy to a tragedy and can be seen on almost every page. It is this irony that made me love the play even more. It gets the reader thinking, how could he possible say that? For example “Now my curse on the murder…let that man drag out his life in agony” (l. 280-284). Oedipus places a curse on himself, yet he does not yet know what he has done. Everyone in the audience would be laughing or incredulous at this little speech because they all know how dumb the protagonist looks. But maybe it is exactly this to which people relate? In the end I view Oedipus as a hero, a hero who happened to have an unlucky fate, whos life was out of his hands, and who did nothing wrong but pursue an unfortunate truth. I greatly enjoyed Oedipus the King and look forward to reading more of Sophocles’ works in the future.

 

Who am I?

Hello, my name is Tristan Boxshall. I am from Canada, born in Vancouver and raised in Victoria. However, my entire family is English, just in case you are wondering why I constantly get teased for being “British”. I play a variety of sports including: tennis, volleyball and basketball. I have a strong passion for music and play the piano, along with cello and saxophone. This is my third year at Brookes, second year with Mr. MacKnight in English. Trust me two years feels like an eternity. I have one goal for this year which is to hand everything in on time. Ironically I have already failed as I am writing this post 5 days late. So I restate my goal and expectations, starting next week I will hand everything in on time and whenever possible I will try to be ahead of the work load as well as take the extra steps to prepare myself for classes. English is a hard subject and I often fell behind on assignments and posts last year which is why I am even more driven to do my absolute best this year. I am dreading the year ahead because I have heard it is a lot to handle and yet I am looking forward to the new friends, new learning and new experiences that come along with it.