Wisdom from Failure? The final lines of the play are voiced by the Chorus, whose lament claims that “Wisdom is the greatest part of joy” and that when humanity suffers “blows,” we are...

Wisdom from Failure?

 The final lines of the play are voiced by the Chorus, whose lament claims that “Wisdom is the greatest part of joy” and that when humanity suffers “blows,” we are taught wisdom.  Support or refute this argument using specific examples from the play and/or from historical events. 

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malibrarian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Great thoughts, Jamie. On a personal note, I can't believe you can remember the body counts from Vietnam - You're only a year older than I am, and I don't remember ANYTHING about the news, Vietnam, nothing! (It just occurred to me, though, as I was writing that, that my parents were divorcing at the time...I think my dad left and my mom shipped me and my brother to stay with my sister in North Carolina while she cleaned up the mess, in '73 or '74. Okay, that makes sense - I'm guessing that very few people in my immediate family were paying attention to Vietnam at the time.)

As I said in another post, I'm learning that all is not as it appears with regards to our leaders. Again, it makes me sad, but I guess everyone goes through that at some point. I still feel the importance of supporting the Presidency as an institution - I cannot stand how disrespectful people have become for the sake of "free speech." But I do agree that things are not good...Good heavens, I'm not sure if I should post all that as it doesn't have much to do with Antigone...but wait! Yes, it does, and that is the point I'm trying to make! All lasting literature is timeless as it illustrates things about our own times, not just the times in which it was written. Very cool!

Thanks for tolerating my babbling! :)

Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes, indeed.  I too think people hide behind "free speech."  And again, I don't want to turn this into a political soapbox, but current issues are universal ones.  Tip O'Neal's oft-quoted phrase, "All politics is local" (though I don't think the maxim is truly his; somebody care to set me straight?) seems as true in ancient Greece as it is in Dallas (my hometown).  The great literature embraces the universal, timeless issues.  Take a look at the bestsellers over the twentieth century:


How many have survived?  How many have you even heard of??  Of those that have survived, which do you predict a self-life equal to that of Sophocles?  Huh, huh??? :)

Geez, maybe that second cup is a good idea....

As to Vietnam, as a child I had a larger stake in it:  two uncles there.  Both came back alive, but the second had severe PTSD and was never the same again. 

Now whose babbling?  :)

I think I'm going to post universality as a discussion topic on Beowful on Monday. 




Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Great examples.  I guess I was feeling crabby when I wrote this one...listening to the news and hearing yet another six young boys had died in Iraq the day before Thanksgiving.  I was a child in the 70s and remember the daily body counts on the news from Vietnam.  Do our leaders learn? 

I know people have different takes on the war in Iraq and I certainly don't want this to turn into a pro/anti war discussion, but I can't help but compare Creon's intransigence and the blindness of the Chorus to our current situation. 

Crabbiness continues when I think about global warming...I shan't start....

As for the positive, we do learn from our mistakes, of course, at least sometimes.  The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s changed our culture and country for the good.  One of my favorite lines, for my own life, (esp raising a child with autism), is from Maya Angelou, who speaking of her own son, Guy, said, "When you knew better, you did better." 

I'll end there, because as many mistakes we may make, sometimes over and over, I still believe that most people want to be good; when they know better, most *do* do better. 

malibrarian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'd like to try to do both - support and refute this argument.

To support the argument, I would say, absolutely yes, there have been times when humanity has suffered severe blows and we have gained wisdom from the experience.  Consider the Holocaust, which was a horrible, horrible thing, but which led to greater sympathy for Jews and an increased desire in many quarters to fight against anti-Semitism.

But we don't always learn from the past like we should.  Creon is an example of this in Antigone.  His final lines express remorse for the deaths of his son and wife...but not for his treatment of Antigone!  The act that led to his downfall, the curse on Thebes, and the deaths of Haemon and Eurydice is the one that he ignores - that he learned nothing from!  How pathetic!

To quote Puck, "Lord, what fools these mortals be!"  Sometimes we catch a clue and do better the next time.  Sometimes it seems we are destined to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

malibrarian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

So are we going to have a "Beowful" of Beowulf on Monday???  Sorry, couldn't resist - it reminded me of "bowlful"...phew...more coffee, STAT! :)

The list on ABE was fascinating! Not to offend any Star Wars officianados out there, but I'm just guessing that The Return of the Jedi Storybook (1983) won't be around as long as Sophocles, or Steinbeck, or Shakespeare...Hey, why wasn't Shakespeare on that list?  What is wrong with these people??!? :)

Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think the ABE list was only applicable to authors published for the first time (not first novel, work, you understand.)  I love a good list!  The end of the year is my favorite time for such things.

If you like lists too, you should check out the "Top Ten" blogs here at eNotes:   


malibrarian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Okay, I suppose it would have been tough for Steinbeck and Shakespeare to be on the list! :)