Antigone’s Act: A Stand For Justice or Wanton Selfishness?`

Even before Monday’s enlightening lecture, when I had no idea what 80% of Antigone’s claim was about, one point in ┬áparticular stood out for me: If, as Butler says, Antigone was not motivated by the household gods, but instead acted out of incestuous love for her brother, then is not her act, by definition, selfish?

Antigone is given such high praise as this martyr for justice and individuality, while ironically, should the above statement be true, her act of defiance was nothing more than an act of passion, blind and unthinking.

This explanation would help to explain her absolute refusal to bend or break, as well as her idiotic (in my opinion) refutation of life. Similar blindness and wanton disregard for the safety of themselves and others around them can be found in many romantics throughout literature’s history.

Finally, as Butler says, this “law” that Antigone invokes, has but one application, and therefore is not universal. This leads to my most perplexing question of all: If Antigone’s act is selfish, careless, motivated by love (lust) & frankly a little crazy, then why does, as Tiresias says on P. 115 (my book is a different edition), “the whole city agree with her” (I’m paraphrasing here to fit the context better, but you get the idea)?

What makes the city side with this woman, who at the time had no right to speak out, who is invoking a non-existent law, which inevitably causes much trouble and bloodshed?

2 thoughts on “Antigone’s Act: A Stand For Justice or Wanton Selfishness?`

  1. Good questions, Devin. I honestly don’t know how I feel about the incest claim, but if that was the main motivator, then I suppose her act is more selfish and driven by passion than driven by a duty towards the gods or her family. The fact, as Butler points out, that she says she wouldn’t do this for anyone else than a brother (or maybe a sister, whom she couldn’t get another one of either now that her parents are dead?) does seem to suggest that she is motivated by some connecting to Polyneices (and Eteokles?) as an individual, instead of a general law about burying family members. But at the same time, she doesn’t have to do this for any of her other family members, including Eteokles–she doesn’t have to pay deep attention to him at the moment b/c he IS already being buried correctly.

    The one thing that does stand out for me in this, though, is that if she would only have this devotion for a family member that she couldn’t get another of, as she says (which is a strange thing to say in itself, but okay), why not be devoted to Ismene, who also can’t be replaced b/c she couldn’t get another sister?

    Your question about why the whole city would agree with her is a good one too, though I suppose that fits with the interpretation of Antigone as standing for the laws of the gods and duties towards the family. That would uphold that interpretation, I suppose.

    (next time remember the blog posts are due Mondays at midnight!)

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