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Antigone | Study Guide

Jean Anouilh

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Antigone | Part 7 (One Last Appeal) | Summary

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Summary

Creon continues to insist that Antigone's stand is meaningless, and he plays his ace card to prove it. He tells Antigone the truth about her brothers. Polynices attacked his own father when he refused to pay his gambling debts. Both he and his brother Eteocles, the supposed hero of the rebellion, had paid assassins to kill their father. When they finally killed each other, their bodies were so damaged Creon couldn't tell who was who, adding, "and I assure you, I don't care." At last Creon has shaken Antigone's faith in her family—her last defense against Creon's arguments. When he tells her to go marry Haemon, she wearily agrees. But then Creon pushes too far: he compares Antigone to his own, younger, idealistic self. "His mind, too, was filled with thoughts of self-sacrifice." Then he explains the point of life is not self-sacrifice; instead he says, "life is nothing more than the happiness that you get out of it."

Suddenly Antigone seems to wake up. She tells Creon she loves Haemon as he is today, but not the man he would become "if he too has to learn to say 'yes' to everything." She says Creon can no longer understand that she occupies "a kingdom you can't get into, with ... your hollow heart." She rejects Creon's "humdrum" happiness; she will not compromise, "not be moderate."

Now Creon is really angry and violently tries to silence Antigone; he's afraid she'll be overheard. He calls Antigone ugly, but Antigone says it is he and those like him who are ugly. Finally, exasperated, he calls the guards to take her to her death.

Analysis

In revealing the truth about Polynices and Eteocles, Creon invokes the image of the kitchen of politics. It's similar to a commonplace comparison between making laws and sausages: few people would like to see the process, but they appreciate the results. This image isn't what persuades Antigone, however; it's the devastating realization that her family isn't who she thought they were. Etecoles and Polynices did not inherit Oedipus's heroic nature—why should she defend either one of them?

But just when Creon thinks he has gotten Antigone to compromise, she comes roaring back with righteous anger. This is Antigone's moment, the climax of the play. Creon's mistake is belittling her idea of self-sacrifice and implying she does not know her own mind. She tears apart Creon's idea of happiness as little more than a series of moral compromises: "What are the unimportant little sins that I shall have to commit?" she asks him. "To whom must I sell myself?"

The last time Creon grabbed her, Antigone said she couldn't feel him. Now she says she is beyond his understanding, "from a kingdom he can't get into." She is too pure for him, and, as her next diatribe shows, she is too pure for this world, which she insists must "be as beautiful as when I was a little girl. If not, I want to die!" Finally Antigone is able to articulate the reason for her defiance. It has nothing to do with her brother; it's her insistence on living purely, with integrity and without compromise. She contrasts her purity with Creon's stink of the kitchen of politics: "you smell of it!" Egging him on to seal her fate, she says, "Come on, cook!"

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