Society cannot escape contemporary moral issues. We are continually exposed to situations that bring into question our very system of beliefs. In response to these ethical dilemmas we are forced to adapt and reevaluate our present frame of mind resulting in both positive change and unavoidable struggle. Throughout the play Antigone, Sophocles clearly demonstrates the adversity one must face in the fight against injustice. One need not look very far to find immediate parallels in our own present-day society.
The central conflict in Antigone is very recognizable: the struggle of a strong minded individual in direct conflict with the established rule of another. In the case of Antigone this rule comes in the form of King Creon. The story unravels as Polynices, Antigone's brother, dies while attacking the city of Thebes. By order of Creon Polynices's body is left to rot in the streets, a seemingly fitting judgment for a traitor. Regardless of her brother's actions Antigone believed he deserved a proper burial. In her eyes Creon's power wasn't limitless. "I did not think your edicts strong enough to overrule the unwritten, unalterable laws of God and heaven, you being only a man." Unwilling to yield her convictions Antigone was found burying her brother and sentenced by Creon to die. Her fianc e Haemon, the son of Creon, discovered Antigone's dead body. Stricken with grief he killed himself. Upon hearing the news of his death Eulydices, Haemon's mother, also took her life. Creon, alone and responsible for the deaths of three people, finally understood his failings and weakness as a king.
The relationship between Antigone and her sister Ismene clearly illustrates two opposing views. Both women, sickened by the news of Polynices's death reacted in a contrasting manner. Regardless of the consequence Antigone was ready to protect the rights of her brother. Ismene, however felt powerless, filled with fear and unable to join her sisters crusade. Unfortunately this lack of control has a timeless quality especially when dealing with women's issues; the independence of women was not a popular concept. "Better to be beaten, if need be by a man than let a woman get the better of us." Some things have not changed. Women who represent such "masculine" qualities as leadership, aggression, and self-confidence are negatively labeled while those who act "feminine" are accused of using their womanly wiles. Ismene's reaction mirrors the self-perception of many women." but I cannot act against the state I am not strong enough." The lower value placed on a woman's worth is a continuous conflict. Although many issues are not resolved (pay equity, glass ceiling) together women are working towards equality.
Just as Antigone fought to right a wrong Canada's own Nellie McClung fought injustice with regards to women and the right to vote. McClung believed that the protection of women from spousal alcohol abuse and the exploits of factory work could be achieved the by gaining the right to vote. Determined to achieve this goal McClung helped form The Political Equity League in 1912. In an attempt to gain recognition for their cause a mock parliament was staged in 1914. With McClung as Prime Minister they spoke about why nice men don't want the vote; it was an immediate hit. With reason and humor McClung clearly proved women were capable of voting. In January 1916 Manitoba became the first province to give women this right. Part of the "famous five" McLaughlin managed the to raise a family, become a successful novelist and the first woman to sit on the CBC board of governors. Like Antigone, McClung's struggle was made that much more difficult due to the fact that she was surrounded by a male dominated society. Shrugging off intimidation, McClung bravely fought for the rights of women nation-wide changing the very structure of our society.
Struggle is not solely the realm of the individual. Recent reports concerning Gulf War veterans and forced immunization have resulted in a unified struggle for the right to choose. In light of numerous reports on the terrible and lasting side effects of untested immunization, the question "who makes the decision" is raised? Those who refused immunizations are being dishonorably discharged. It is plain to see that this conflict is just beginning; soldiers may not speak up because they feel that their jobs are threatened or they may choose to do so because their lives are threatened, only time will tell. Even an organization as tightly run as the U.S. Army can experience conflict from within. For many soldiers experiencing the effects of these drugs, the thought of challenging the U.S. Army and is extremely intimidating; a modern-day David and Goliath. Despite this these overwhelming obstacles soldiers have been forced to look out for their own best interests. Although the original purpose of the immunization was to protect, the secrecy and resulting medical problems cannot be denied. Perhaps the U.S perhaps the U.S. military, like King Creon, will learn the error of their ways.
The fight against injustice does not always take place on a grand scale. Small organizations such as the S.P.C.A and various pet rescues fight for the rights of those who cannot fight for themselves. A variety of reasons lead to homeless pets: neglect, the animal was a gift, it was not trained properly or it was too expensive to maintain. Whatever the reason these shelters are overflowing strongly suggesting something is wrong. Shelters are often left with no other choice but to euthanize the animal and depending on the method even that doesn't always seem humane. What are these organizations doing to combat abuse, neglect and disposable pet syndrome? Education is key; unfortunately this is too slow a process to prevent the many shelters from filling their cages. The S.P.C.A now has special constables able to investigate reports of animal abuse and lay charges if necessary. Other rescues find homes for all pets regardless of age or health considerations. Periodic unannounced checkups on the animals often reinforce the feeling that there are people who keep track of your actions. These developments may seem insignificant but if you've ever experienced a visit to an animal shelter the numbers speak for themselves. This is not a struggle of Man vs. beast but rather an attempt to ensure the ethical treatment of animals.
Unfortunately humans do not limit their cruelty to other humans. The protection of animal rights may seem minor in comparison to many contemporary moral issues, however, its relevance to Antigone can be understood; the fight against unlawfulness and the struggle for what is honorable and just. Sophocles clearly understood the influential power of the struggle between good and evil, right and wrong, the just and the unjust. Well over two thousand years have passed since its creation yet Antigone can still find modern-day parallels; the story stays the same only the names of change.
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