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Do Antigone and Creon learn something from their pain and suffering? How do their...

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m-hardy1 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 3, 2013 at 7:36 PM via web

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Do Antigone and Creon learn something from their pain and suffering? How do their tragic flaws enhance this learning process?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 3, 2013 at 8:05 PM (Answer #1)

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The pride that becomes the tragic flaw of both Antigone and Creon have different trajectories in terms of their learning.  Interestingly enough, I am not sure that Antigone learns much in way of change.  She is as defiant in the outset of the work as she is in the end of it.  Despite the fact that she recognizes that her actions compel her to dissolve the bonds between she and her sister, as well as with her fiance, Antigone does not change. She is confident in her defiance all the way until the end:  "I have no share of marriage hymns... I shall be the bride of death....I am taken down the prepared road."  While there is sadness in her tone given her impending death, Antigone shows no sign of regret or believing that she had made a mistake.  She is convinced that her desire to honor her borhter and thus her tragic flaw of defiant stubbornness was done with the best of intentions:  "There is no field where I could grow another brother."  Antigone's tragic flaw is one that she does not see as a flaw.  The Chorus and the reader recognize it, as such, but since she refuses to see it as a source of weakness, she proceeds with confidence towards what she feels is her duty.

Creon reflects a different approach in this regard. When Antigone suggests that this world "brings closer my death," she speaks words that apply to Creon with what he comes to realize.  Tiresias tells Creon that "Obstinacy brings the charge of stupidity," and this comes to fruition as the narrative progresses towards its tragic end.  Creon recognizes that perhaps some line has been crossed when he remarks "I, too, am shaking in my heart."  While Creon believes that what he has done is right, there is some ambivalence in his resolve. When he receives word that his son is dead, Creon recognizes that his own actions were guided by "thoughtless thoughts" and that his son's death was caused by his own "foolish counsel."  The extent of Creon's learning and knowledge through acknowledgement of his own tragic flaw becomes clear:

I have learned pathetically,
but then—oh, then some god was angry and hit me hard
in the head and shook me on fierce roads,
alas, overturned and trampled my happiness.
Oh, the ill-labored labors of mortals!  

From this, Creon understands the true meaning of "pathetic" in how he has "learned" from his own tragic flaw.  When he recognizes that both his wife and son have died due to his own stubbornness, Creon shows the extent of his learning with the admission that "I am a wretch, alas, /and I am made whole by wretchedness." In this, Creon has shown that he has learned from his own tragic flaws.

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