Family Vs. Society in Sophocles' Essay

Total Length: 693 words ( 2 double-spaced pages)

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Though Antigone is certainly the protagonist of the play, she makes her decision very early in the action -- she chooses to bury her brother despite the civil disobedience and disrespect of the State that it shows. Ismene, on the other hand, wavers between the two duties. When Antigone is caught, her sister tries to take the blame with her: "But now you're in trouble, I'm not ashamed / of suffering, too, as your companion" (Sophocles, 540-1). Though Ismene's motives might be somewhat questionable, she is at least claiming a sense of duty and companionship with her sister -- and a desire to honor her brother -- by joining in the guilt of the act against the State. Antigone will not let her, again for reasons that could be put under debate. One possible explanation for Antigone's refusal to let Ismene share the punishment for the act would be her love for her sister. She has no need to share the punishment, and is now the only member of the family left. Her death would mean that Antigone's and her brothers' were all in vain; the honor of the family would not matter if the family ceased to exist.
Both Ismene and Antigone end up defying the State for family, making it clear which duty is ultimately stronger and more moral, at least according to Sophocles.

One interesting modern application of similar family vs. state conflicts is the illegal immigration issue that this country is now dealing with, especially regarding Hispanic workers. Most of these people are very law-abiding, and do not set out to subvert the State, but in order to feed and support their families, it is something they feel they must do. Many of them face punishment for it, too, though generally not as harsh as what occurs in this play. The family tends to show itself as most important in drama and in life.

Works Cited

Sophocles. Antigone. Ian Johnston, trans. Accessed 5 March 2009.

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