Born to be different

So I happened by my copy of Antigone in my town’s used book store. I bought it before we had known what editions we would need, but somehow fate led me to buy the exact edition we would be using. It was a used copy, and there were some minor notes inside. One thing that struck me from the beginning was on page 20, the official first page of the play, there was a note beside the character description of Antigone.

Antigone daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta

Scribbled beside it in pencil it said:

– Born to oppose.

From the beginning of the play I tried to understand what the previous owner had meant. Having read Oedipus Rex, I immediately thought of the title character’s strife to break out of fate’s grasp. Both Antigone’s mother and father tried to deny fate, and opposed what the prophets had told them. But as we know, it didn’t work out well for either of them.

Could this be what the mysterious note meant?

Or could it have to do with the origins of Antigone’s name, as discussed by Professor Crawford today in his lecture. Anti means against, while gone has many translations. The one’s that fit most seem to be birth/motherhood/offspring,  bends/angles/corners, or gonos which means seed or semen. So could he or she have meant that Antigone’s own name means to be against bending to the will, to be against the role of woman in her time?

Maybe. But I also think that Antigone is less “Born to Oppose”, and more “Born ahead of her time”. From the beginning of the play she is shown as a strong female character, unafraid of Kreon like her sister Ismene. She has no fear of disobeying his rule, and doing what she believes is right. Her sister even says “We are women, born unfit to battle men” (23). Yet, nothing deters Antigone from her goal.

This could be because by this point she has nothing to lose (why does everyone always seem to die?!) but I like to think of it as her conscious decision to not let the rules of her time govern her. I’d like to think of her as some Athenian feminist.

So maybe I’ll never know exactly what the previous owner had meant, but reading this book, I don’t think either of us are far off.

1 thought on “Born to be different

  1. I love how you spun some interesting ideas from a note in a used book! I like to think of Antigone as an early feminist as well, someone who stands up to (male) authority and does what she thinks is right even though she is “supposed” to obey.

    But the lecture also made me think about whether she goes too far, as Kreon does. I hadn’t thought of her that way, as being something like a mirror image of Kreon in some respects. I had always thought of her as this sympathetic character who is completely in the right. I’ll be curious to hear what people think in seminar of this claim in lecture.

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