What is the main theme of "Antigone"?
Perhaps there are at least two main themes in Antigone; one is the conflict between justice versus law and order, but much has already been written about that. Another major theme in the play is the examination of women's roles in society.
Antigone's sister, Ismene, represents the cultural norm for women; she is appalled and frightened when she learns of Antigone's plan to defy Creon and bury their brother. Her words "We are women, born unfit to battle men" signal her acceptance of the notion of women's innate inferiority. Antigone, in response, shrugs off her sister's point of view with the words, ''Then weakness will be your plea.''
Creon's determination to put Antigone in what he sees as her place is tested through the bonds of family since he is her uncle. But his reinforcement of two cultural norms, obedience to the state and subordinate roles for women, leads him to ultimately put her to death when she defiantly rejects his way of thinking.
This play is one of the first to deal with the theme of civil disobedience. Creon believes that the needs of the state are supreme and it should be obeyed at all times. Antigone believes in a higher law, one that directs her conscious and her religious beliefs. Antigone, therefore, obeys that higher law and she is willing to suffer the consequences for her disobedience. The same theme has been reflected in the writings of Hanry David Thoreau, Ghandi, Martin Luther King and others who believed that sometimes one must break the law in order to obey a higher power. However, they also said that one must be willing to suffer the consequences of that disobedience. Eventually, the morality of your disobedience will overcome the tyranny of the state. That is exactly what occurs in "Antigone". Although Antigone dies because of her beliefs, eventually Creon sees the error of his ways.
One of the main themes of Antigone is that there is a higher law that transcends the laws of human society. Antigone has looked deep within herself and concluded, on the basis of the right reason that she shares with everyone by virtue of being human, that Creon's order not to bury Polyneices is intrinsically wrong. This is an example of what's called natural law, a universal standard of morality implanted in us by a creator, and against which human laws and conventions should be measured. What matters here is that Creon's order isn't just wrong by virtue of the effects it has on Antigone as Polyneices's sister; it is wrong in itself. There are no conditions under which his cruel proclamation would ever be right; it is blatantly unjust irrespective of time or place.
A main theme in "Antigone" is the role of custom. The play asks the audience to consider if tradition and what is right ever come into conflict, and how is that conflict to be resolved. Antigone is not supposed to bury her brother, but her love for Polyneices causes her to do so. This decisions leads to the major conflict in the play.