Individual versus State in "Antigone"
In Sophocles' "Antigone," the main theme of the play is the conflict of two different views of the world(that of Antigone and that of Creon(and the contrast between their claims. Antigone eschews the laws of the state by insisting on burial for her brother, Polyneices, who is a traitor to Thebes. In contrast, Creon adheres to the laws of the state by refusing burial for Polyneices. Although these views ostensibly conflict with each other, the case can be made that both are valid.
Essentially, both Antigone and Creon insist on doing what is right; they merely differ in their interpretation of right. Antigone leans to her individual interpretation of right: her belief that according to the gods, her brother must be buried or his decaying flesh will be an offense to the gods. She states:
Nay, be what thou wilt; but I will bury him: well for me to die in doing that. I shall rest, a loved one with him whom I have loved, sinless in my crime; for I owe a longer allegiance to the dead than to the living: in that world I shall abide for ever. But if thou wilt, be guilty of dishonouring laws which the gods have stablished in honour.
Although what she is doing defies the state's laws, Antigone feels justified because she sees the laws of the gods as a higher law. Seeing the non-burial as a violation of the gods' wishes, she prefers death to violating those wishes.
Creon, on the other hand, believes that violating the laws of the state is the worse offense. Ironically, he too feels his position is endorsed by the gods:
àand if any makes a friend of more account than his fatherland, that man hath no place in my regard. For I(be Zeus my witness, who sees all things always(would not be silent if I saw ruin, instead of safety coming to the citizens; nor would I ever deem the country's foe a friend to myself; remembering this, that our country is the ship that bears us safe, and that ...