The Flaw of Pride in Sophocles’s Antigone
‘There are two kinds of pride, good and bad. ‘Good pride’ represents our dignity and self-respect. ‘Bad pride’ is the deadly sin of superiority that reeks of conceit and arrogance. (John C. Maxwell)
Pride is not a bad thing, it can be used to represent our dignity and worthiness but for many people in this world their pride makes them feel superior to others, and in the long run, they become arrogant, narrow-minded people, and begin to yield to reason.
The characteristic of a person with too much pride is shown through Creon’s personality in Antigone where he lets his pride get the best of him unveiling himself as the true tragic hero of the story. After the exile of her father Oedipus, Antigone finds her brothers Polyneices and Eteocles dead after fighting each other for the throne and that her uncle has decided Polyneices does not deserve a proper burial. Antigone buries her brother trying to do the right thing but ends up being sentenced to death by Creon for going against him. Throughout the course of the story, Creon blindly continues to make rash decisions and these decisions tremendously start to affect the people and environment around him eventually revealing his hamartia, excessive pride.
In the play, Antigone, Sophocles uses Creon’s tragic flaw of pride, which results in him defying the divine laws of the gods and inevitably causing the death of his family, to show that having too much pride can only lead to one’s downfall and eventually tragedy. Through Creon’s own mistake of defying the divine laws of the gods, Sophocles shows how excessive pride can blind a person from justice, the truth, and in the long run doom themselves. After Creon finds out Antigone has buried Polyneices he becomes infuriated and continues to criticize Antigone for her actions, Antigone exclaims, “It was not God’s proclamation. That final Justice that rules the world below makes no such laws. Your edict, King, was strong, But all your strength is weakness itself against The immortal unrecorded laws of God. They are not merely now: they were, and shall be, Operative forever, beyond man utterly” (1035).
Antigone wants Creon to understand that no matter how many strong and powerful laws he’s placed or how unjust those laws are they will never come close or even compare to the divine, fair, and moral laws given by the gods. The laws Creon placed and the decisions he made were blinded from the truth and the justice both Polyneices and Antigone deserved by his excessive pride eventually leading to his undoing. Sophocles explains that one should never yield to reason and always be open to different opinions even when they contradict their own. After sentencing Antigone to her death, the blind prophet Tiresias approaches Creon and forces him to rethink his past decisions saying, “Dead, denied the grave. This is your crime: And the Furies and the dark gods of hell Are swift with terrible punishment for you. Do you want to buy me now, Creon? Not many days And your house will be full of men and women weeping, And curses will be hurled at you from far Cities grieving for sons unburied, let to rot before the walls of Thebes” (1054).
Tiresias explains to Creon that refusing to allow Polyneices a proper burial and his unfair sentencing for Antigone upset the gods and that the gods will bring down curses to him and his loved ones. Through Creon’s blatant decisions Sophocles shows that some decisions are too important to not think through, for certain decisions and actions could affect not only your own life but others as well. By defying the divine laws of the gods Creon proves that self-pride can truly blind someone from seeing reason, justice, and the truth. Through the death of Creon’s family, Sophocles displays how pride can make a person become so arrogant and narrow-minded that they allow themselves to place their self-esteem over things like family. When Creon and Haemon are arguing about which side Creon’s son will take Haemon explains, “Nothing is closer to me than your happiness. What could be closer? Must not any son Value his father’s fortune as his father does his? Do not believe that you alone can be right. The man who thinks that The man who maintains that only he has the power To reason correctly, the gift to speak, the soul- A man like that, when you know him, turns out empty. It is not reason never to yield to reason” (1043).
Haemon tries to explain to his father that as his son he will always stand by him and his decisions but that doesn’t always mean he thinks Creon is correct and believes that he can sometimes be narrow-minded. One should never let their pride cause themselves to make reckless decisions that can affect their family members and loved ones. As Creon recognizes the mistakes and rash judgments he has made he also realizes it’s too late to change his fate and says, “Lead me away. I have been rash and foolish. I have killed my son and my wife. I look for comfort; my comfort lies here dead. Whatever my hands have touched has come to nothing. Fate has brought all my pride to a thought of dust” (1060). After Creon has seen his fate and what his mistakes have brought him to he realizes that after losing everything, his wife and son, pride no longer means as much as it did to him before. One should try and keep an open mind and not allow their pride to get in the way of those that matter as its unwise to risk the things that matter most. After realizing that he has lost everything Creon proves how pride can make one become so arrogant and narrow-minded that they put their self-esteem superior to everything risking significant things like family.
Creon defied the god’s laws and inevitably caused the death of his family through many of his decisions proving that having too much pride can lead to one’s downfall and in the end catastrophe for not only them but others as well. Sophocles not only showed that pride can lead to destruction but he also points out an important lesson of allowing yourself to be open-minded and never to yield to reason as it can lead you to break laws of government and religion or betray your family. For this reason one should only have good pride as a character as it can help lift our self-esteem, praise our accomplishments, and represent our dignity rather than having bad pride which can only make one more arrogant and egoistic.
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