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The Play Antigone: Characterization and Symbolism Essay

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The play Antigone centers on two main characters, Antigone, the protagonist, and Creon, the King of Thebes. The two are driven by strong convictions, yet different in beliefs and values. Antigone is respectful but cannot bring herself to the level of abiding by laws she considers repugnant. She ends up the tragic heroine by burying her brotto her against the wish of her uncle, the king of Thebes, and the rules of the land.

While Antigone is energetic and young, Creon is old and frail. Antigone’s conviction is that the dead deserve a decent burial in spite of the circumstances that led to their death while Creon’s preoccupation is to enforce the laws of the land that disallow burial of those who meet their death in a disgraceful manner. Sophocles has managed to blend a poetic style of play with a powerful symbolism that is timeless. This paper will demonstrate that in spite of their differences; Antigone and Creon are both headstrong and strong-willed.

Antigone’s love for her family is the single most attribute that Sophocles presents in the play. It is for this love that she is ready to defy her uncle and the rules of the land. By going against King Creon’s decree that Polyneices death was dishonorable and hence undeserving of a proper burial, Antigone portrays a deep love for her brother. Even in death, she is willing to commit a punishable offense just to honor her brother.

The fact that she is ready to stand by her decisions and accept punishment depicts her as a headstrong woman who is also strong-willed. She believes that should the law of man and law of god conflict, the latter should prevail. This marks the departure in character traits to her uncle.

Creon believes that laws preserve social order and bind all human beings. When he stands against Antigone’s desire to bury her brother, it is out of the need to enforce the laws that his position demanded. By taking contradictory positions and sticking with them, Antigone and Creon attribute as headstrong converges. Antigone is ready to face death and her uncle is ready to sentence her.

Sophocles employs strong symbolism to show the conflict between state law and religion. The most conspicuous symbolism is the image of tombs. The tomb serves as a mockery to those who think that they are living but are actually dead. They also mock Creon’s hubris, an attribute that makes him blasphemous. Because of his pride, Creon disallows the burial of Polyneices and goes ahead to bury Antigone even before she is dead.

The fact that Antigone looks forward to reuniting with departed family members is symbolic of her realization that the tragedy ahead was unavoidable. Sophocles has used his characters to achieve symbolism. The duel between Creon and Antigone symbolizes a tussle between opposing forces.

There are a pull and push between male and female, divine and state law, as well as humans and nature/god. A classic example of human versus god is the constant presence of the prophet Teiresias. The prophet forewarns Creon but his hubris stands on his way to being a rational king that he should be. In the end, pride destroys his family.

Langston Hughes was an American poet who made a name for himself during the Harlem Renaissance. Born to Afro-American parents, Hughes developed a passion for activism through his writings. Together with his contemporaries like Claude McKay, he used poetry to bring to the fore the plight of African Americans under the shackles of racial discrimination.

His writings attacked the early Harlem Renaissance writers who he felt had abandoned their intellectual responsibility to the low life by adopting Eurocentric values and practices. He propounded on the need for an African-American consciousness that was devoid of hatred towards other people. Through his writings, he praised the beauty of blackness and highlighted the pathetic conditions of the black race all over the world.

He challenged the stereotypes inherent in Eurocentric writings and promoted a cultural consciousness that would treat people as equal irrespective of their race. In The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain, Hughes urges young Afro-American writers to express their blackness without shame. He asks them to be proud of their heritage and use it to create a platform to confront racial inequalities and stereotypes.

Hughes’ writings heavily employ music to pass across his message. Jazz music characterized the emergency of the Harlem Renaissance. As one of the foremost thinkers of his time, Hughes employed music effectively to resonate and appeal to the poor black Americans. He was a big fan of the blues music and in one interview, he described it as “sad funny songs-too sad to be funny and too funny to be sad.”

He also used jazz music, both in content and style. Through poetry that his target could easily identify with, he portrays the urban life and the abject poverty of the oppressed blacks. Additionally, the poems highlight racial stereotypes against blacks that are inherent in America.

In The Weary Blues, Hughes musically highlights the urban poverty that confronts African Americans. The persona of the poem is a black man reflecting about an evening in Harlem. He is listening to blues music and the audience can easily identify with the sad tone of the poem. The tempo is slow, a style Hughes favors to enable the audience to appreciate the subject. The repetitive mention of the word down in association with blacks’ neighborhood emphasizes their poor state under economic exploitation and racial discrimination.

The use of the word raggy (13) points out to the torn clothes that the persona is wearing. The use of irregular rhyming gives the poem a loose form, something that makes it easily adaptable to performance. The repetition of lines makes it musical and easy for the average person to read and understand. Hughes believed that poetry should not be difficult to understand as this only serves to alienate people who are not well educated.

Hughes enjoyed high popularity in the middle of the 20th century especially with the increasing clamor for independence in former colonies. In America, however, he is getting less popular as more people favored integration over the separation. His message of black pride did not resonate with the young generation of Americans who wanted to see themselves as Americans rather than blacks.

His thought, however, remains a rallying point for those who believe in race consciousness and celebration of the black identity. His poetry and commentaries have contributed immensely to the intellectual discourse of the place of marginalized races in America’s social and political sub-stratum.

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"The Play Antigone: Characterization and Symbolism." IvyPanda, 21 Mar. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/the-play-antigone-characterization-and-symbolism/.

1. IvyPanda. "The Play Antigone: Characterization and Symbolism." March 21, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-play-antigone-characterization-and-symbolism/.


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IvyPanda. 2020. "The Play Antigone: Characterization and Symbolism." March 21, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-play-antigone-characterization-and-symbolism/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'The Play Antigone: Characterization and Symbolism'. 21 March.

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