Antigone Vs. Creon

“Morality is always the product of terror; its chains and strait-waistcoats are fashioned by those who dare not trust others, because they dare not trust themselves, to walk in liberty,” writes author Aldous Huxley. In “Antigone” the root of Creon’s immoral behavior is not an inability to distinguish between what is wrong and what is right, but, rather, a fear or a terror of what may occur if he were to choose the morally right way to operate. “Very well, I am afraid, then. Does that satisfy you? I am afraid that if you insist upon it, I shall have you killed. And I don’t want to (46).” Antigone acts in the complete opposite manner to Creon. She, as Creon can, is able to differentiate from right and wrong and is not afraid of the consequences of what acting on her morals may bring. These consequences have almost a reverse effect when compared with Creon; when faced with the consequences, she expects them and is almost too willing to deal with them. “You are mistaken. Quite the contrary. I never doubted for an instant you would have me put to death (41).”

In “Antigone”, the characters of Creon and Antigone stand for two completely different, completely opposite, feelings and belief systems. Creon stands for numbness; a numbness that encompasses what he does, how he copes with what he does, and his morals. “Kings, my girl, have other things to do than to surrender themselves to their private feelings (42).” Creon does not bother himself with what he personally thinks is right or wrong, he detaches himself from his state of being as a person and creates just the entity “Creon the King”. This way he, Creon, never encounters or solves any moral dilemmas for he has “Creon the King” for that. Antigone on the other hand, represents strong ethics, courage, and righteousness: “alive” to Creon’s numb. “I didn’t say “yes”. I can say no to anything I think vile, and I don’t have to count the cost. But because you said yes, all that you can do, for all your crown and trappings, and your guards - all that you can do is to have me killed (45).” She is alive to what happens in her surroundings; reacting with every move. Creon is almost on a sort of monarchical autopilot. Antigone responds to events; strictly adhering to her moral code. Her moral code dictates how she reacts to her surroundings, and she does not façade her feelings or attempt to hide her actions. Quite simply, she accepts the consequences of her actions.

Creon’s judgment is presented as the “right” way to act when it is through doing wrong that this right is accomplished. Creon knows the difference between right and wrong and chooses wrong while Antigone knows the difference as well but chooses right over wrong. In the end Creon is a sort of triumphant hero as he is the only one left standing, and everyone else is dead. The philosophy that Creon uses illustrates that choosing wrong over right and immorality over morality is the way to keep on living. By choosing numbness one realizes that, “Life is nothing more than the happiness you get out of it (51).”

Antigone and Creon though oceans apart ideologically and morally, are distinctly similar beneath the surface. Creon was at one time what Antigone was: young, happy, enjoying the fine arts and such, free from control, free from everyone, free from everything. “Don’t think me fatuous if I say that I understand you; and that at your age I should have done the same thing. A moment ago, when we were quarreling, you said I was drinking in your words. I was. But it wasn’t you I was listening to; it was a lad named Creon…he was thin and pale, as you are. His mind too was filled with thoughts of self-sacrifice (50-51).” Creon understands Antigone’s train of thought because he himself went through the same inner feelings. But as he ascended to his position of power, however unwillingly, he needed to detach himself from his beliefs in order to do his job according to how he believed the job must be done. Essentially, he understands Antigone because she feels the same he did when he was younger, but his position and power hold him back from acting and processing the understanding.

Time is most definitely a factor in the similarities and differences between Creon and Antigone. Creon, as a young man, was similar to Antigone but over time and the appearance of new tasks and responsibilities, these wore him down and shoved his morals, his beliefs to the backburner. Due to the nature of his new responsibilities, he had to mold himself to the position. As he says, “There had to be one man who said “yes”. Somebody had to agree to captain the ship (46).” He had to captain the ship, as he puts it, but to captain the ship the qualities that made he and Antigone so similar rotate one hundred eighty degrees to opposites making them sorrowfully different.

In “Antigone” there is a major focus on the differences between Creon and Antigone (as well as Creon’s youth). It is made distinctly clear that the King of Thebes and his niece are at complete opposite ends of the spectrum of morality. The fact that they are completely opposite is stressed in the play. Creon acts immorally, “numb”, while Antigone acts morally, “alive”.

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Mann Erudite – Essays on Literary Works