(From the moment I opened the book and saw the name Adolf I thought Hitler! I don’t know why. Adolf is a perfectly wonderful name. Every time I see the name Joseph, I don’t think Stalin! )
After Blanca’s mother dies her father slowly begins to lose his sanity. He was once a praised student, a genius. Everyone thought he would make something of himself, but life isn’t perfect, and he ends up in poverty with a sick wife and a naive daughter. Erwin’s way of coping with wife’s death causes him to go back into his high school years. He travels back to a time where all of his dreams were still possibilities, and his talents were recognized and favoured by everyone. Erwin is so ensnared by his delusions that he becomes blind to the abusive life of his daughter. Eventually, he disappears. Presumably, he is dead.
Blanca, who starts the novel through narrating her present life, slowly travels back into her past, alternating between her narrations. As the novel progresses, she begins to narrate only about her past. She was a genius, who had opportunities at her disposal. However, as her past catches up to her present she begins to lose her sanity, burning down churches and even giving herself up to the authorities. During the ending of the novel, Blanca becomes entrapped by her need to lose her fear. As she travels to Vizhnitz she ends up getting beaten and raped, but has little consideration to these horrific events. Blanca is unable to realize she has approached gendarmes (giving herself away) claiming that they remind her of her high school janitors.
This is not what I imagined when I began reading this novel. First, when I had picked up the myth, I had assumed that Kreon was a wise, fair, and understanding king; he proved to have none of these qualities. Instead, his ego and stubbornness caused quite a few unintentional deaths. However, it wasn’t like you couldn’t tell what was going to happen. In every ancient myth that I have ever read, you never mess with a prophet. When Tiresias is accused of being a liar and money lover, all hope for Creon just died. Although, he is a king, he is not a very good one. A good king is known to listen and not just command.
I was surprised that he showed so little sympathy for Antigone.
Unfortunately, Creon’s timing isn’t that great, and he ends up with a dead niece, a grief-stricken, suicidal son, who kills himself and a grief-stricken, suicidal wife, who also kills herself. Wow…
I didn’t see this as a possible outcome until the end, when Creon rushes to free Antigone.
Throughout the whole myth, I was wondering what it would feel like to be Antigone. Her mother is her mom and grandmother; her father is her dad and brother, and her brothers, Eteokles and Polyneices kill each other!
She only wants to give her brother proper burial rights and is sentenced to death because of it. If you think about, the maids from The Penelopiad, don’t get their burial rights either, and they haunt Penelope and Odysseus for centuries because of it.
Book X begins with the banishment of poets from the city with Socrates giving reasoning to his claim. Poets are ‘imitators’, “whose product is third from the natural one” (597 e pg.268). Those who write poetry act as though they know all about what they are discussing, however they know nothing at all. If Homer truly understood what it was that he was claiming, cities would be better governed, wars would be won due to his ‘knowledge’ of warfare and generalship (and yet Homer has never been credited for improving a city or helping at war). In addition Socrates claims that poets imitate the negative aspects of the soul, “that part of the soul that is forcibly controlled in our private misfortunes and that hungers for the satisfaction of weeping and wailing, because it desires these things by nature” (606 b pg. 277). Poetry persuades us to feel emotion for fictional characters, which eventually will leak into our own lives, and can’t be held back when we begin to suffer, turning us into the shameful characters portrayed on stage.
With the discussion of souls completed, Socrates moves on to the immortality of the soul. He claims that all souls, just or unjust, are immortal because (according to his argument) the only thing that can destroy a soul is what is bad for it. The souls of the unjust can’t die through the actions of injustice, because the souls own evil and badness is not enough to destroy it, therefore it is immortal.
Throughout the conclusion of both the novel and argument, Socrates once again tells us a story about the virtues of being a philosopher. Through the myth of Er, he explains how being a philosopher allows us to choose just lives, claiming that “if someone pursues philosophy in a sound manner when he comes to live here on earth…it looks as though not only will he be happy…but his journey from here to there and back again won’t be along the rough underground path, but along the smooth heavenly one” (619 d, e pg 290). Basically, become a philosopher or get tortured. Lovely.