In Antigone, what are examples of human vs. human and human vs. society conflicts?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the opening scene of Sophocles's drama, the discussion between Antigone and Ismene reveals different examples of conflict.

As the drama opens, both sisters are struggling with the law that Creon has passed.  The edict forbids a proper burial for their brother, Polynices.  A restriction against his receiving proper...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

In the opening scene of Sophocles's drama, the discussion between Antigone and Ismene reveals different examples of conflict.

As the drama opens, both sisters are struggling with the law that Creon has passed.  The edict forbids a proper burial for their brother, Polynices.  A restriction against his receiving proper rites has become the law of the land.  Antigone's insistence on challenging this law demonstrates a human vs. society conflict. Antigone represents this conflict in her willingness to break the law to honor what she feels is right and just:   

Be whatever you want, and I will bury him.
It seems fair to me to die doing it.
I will lie dear to him, with one dear to me,
a holy outlaw, since I must please those
below a longer time than people here,
for I shall lie there forever. You, though,
dishonor the gods' commands, if you wish.

Antigone's declaration to her sister about her purpose in burying her brother represents her conflict with society's expectation.  It is for this reason that she calls herself a "holy outlaw."  She refers to herself this way because she knows that her actions will break society's laws, with which she is in conflict.  Antigone is further fomenting a conflict with society because she is challenging the social expectation for women.  When Antigone initially tells Ismene of her plans to honor their brother, Ismene says that she does not feel comfortable supporting Antigone because "we should not fight with men" and "that we are ruled by more powerful people / and must obey them." Antigone dismisses this social expectation.  Antigone believes that carrying out the will of the gods and her duty as a sister are more important than conforming to what society expects out of her as a woman. In both ways, Antigone brings about the conflict of human versus society.   

In the collision between Antigone's and Ismene's beliefs, a human vs. human conflict emerges. As both sisters talk, this gulf becomes more pronounced: 

If you say this, you will be hateful to me,
and the dead will hate you always–justly.
But let me and my foolish plans suffer(95)
this terrible thing, for I shall succumb
to nothing so awful as a shameful death.

Antigone's stance causes her to break from her sister.  This conflict is seen in language such as "you'll be hateful to me."  There is little room for negotiation, as Antigone has clearly picked a divergent path from her sister's path.  This conflict is further seen in how she curses Ismene with her line "the dead will hate you always--justly."  Antigone is in profound conflict with her sister and accordingly carves out her position.  The difference between the thoughts and actions of these sisters is an example of a human versus human conflict.   

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team