Conflict is a necessary element in any literary work. Conflict is brought about when two opposing forces come to grips with each other. In Sophocles Antigone, both external and internal conflicts arise when the will of an individual opposes the will of the majority. Throughout the Greek tragedy, either side of the conflict is clearly represented by a single character with a strong belief. Each characters convictions are tested and challenged throughout Antigone, ultimately resulting in one character forsaking his or her belief, revealing both his own true nature and the nature of his or her belief.
The central conflict presented in Antigone, the laws of man versus those of the gods, is commonly found in many Greek tragedies. A specific character represents each side of the conflict; while Antigone is a devout follower of the laws of the gods, Creon and his cohorts represent the arrogant laws of man. The opposing forces come to grips when Antigone, in accordance to the gods law stating that Death longs for the same rites for all, attempts to bury her brother, Polynices (Sophicles 35).
This action is a violation of Creons proclamation . . forbid[ing] the city to dignify him with a burial, mourn at all (Sophicles 4). This breech of godly law is Creons way of punishing Polynices for being a traitor in a recent war. Even though Creon is king, Antigone believes so strongly in the authority of the gods that she refuses to break [their laws], / not out of fear of [Creons] wounded pride (Sophicles 33). Creons arrogance is clearly manifested in his attitude towards the gods authority. He refers to his own decree as an order from the high throne of judgment (Sophicles 47).
Antigone, however, is humble, and acknowledges that Creons orders do not correspond with, nor do they override that Justice, dwelling with the gods / eneath the earth (Sophicles 33). One side must eventually yield when two opposing forces clash with one another. In Sophicles Antigone, the gods prevail over man, as is common in Greek tragedies in which man versus the gods is the central theme. Antigone fights to the bitter end, even after Creon sentences her to death, for [her] reverence for the gods (Sophicles 50).
She, in fact, seems to fully accept her martyrdom, as she believes that it is the pleasure of the gods she is so dedicated to (Sophicles 49). For Antigone, to meet . . . doom . . . is precious little pain, when compared to denying her brother a burial and etraying the gods, which would have been agony (Sophicles 33). Creon, however, does not realize his misdoing until after he has carried out Antigones sentence. He is reluctant to admit that he know[s] [he] cant defile the gods — / no mortal has the power (54).
It is only after disasters sent by the gods, such as the death of his wife and son, that he fully realizes the magnitude of his hubris towards the gods and its consequences. It is after these tragedies that Creon relinquishes his beliefs and acknowledges that the guilt is all [his] (Sophicles 63). The chorus summarizes Creons ultimate ealization in agreeing that the mighty words of the proud are paid in full with mighty blows of fate, and at long last, those blows will teach us wisdom (Sophicles 65).
It is indeed true that Creon gained wisdom from his mistakes, only all too late. Upon Creons change of heart, the nature of his beliefs is revealed. This change reveals that his beliefs were not truly evil, only unwise. He acknowledges this when his son is found dead, saying [his] own stupidity was the cause of his death (Sophicles 62). The misfortune that befall Creon as a result of his arrogance, reveals a profound truth; that of all the ills fflicting men the worst is lack of judgment (Sophicles 61).
Creons further confessions concerning his poor judgment, declaring his stubborn actions to have been so senseless, so insane, support the idea that Creons beliefs were not evil, only unwise (Sophicles 62). Simply put, the nature of his beliefs was not baneful or corrupt, only human. This breed of conflict, the will of human nature versus that which is acknowledged as moral and upright, is certainly still relevant to readers in the twentieth century, as it will be to readers of further generations, forever. This conflict can be seen in almost any aspect of modern life.
It is seen today in the current presidential election. One can see, with a little foresight, that each candidates equally strong will to become president could effect the masses in an adverse way. The possibility of involvement of legal trials concerning the election could undermine the effectiveness of the electoral process and effect United States citizens freedom to choose. This modern example of how the will of an individual can create conflict and adversely effect the masses supports the idea that conflicts similar to those presented in Antigone are still present today.