Megan Griffin and Kate Schenck
Quick Hit: Echoes of Antigone Assignment and Student Examples
In our post “Wisdom of the Ancients: A Cathartic Approach to Antigone,” we noted that our assessment for this unit asks students to consider thematic connections between a contemporary issue and Sophocles’s Antigone, bringing the questions and conflicts of this ancient text into their twenty-first century world.
Students began by collecting recent news articles and posting them to our shared Padlet page; these articles spanned a range of relevant themes, including civil disobedience, family loyalty, gender bias, civil vs. religious law, grief, and catharsis. So many of our students were immediately drawn to the connections between Antigone’s resistance and those of Mahsa Amin, the twenty-two-year-old Iranian woman who was arrested in September by Iran’s morality police for not wearing her veil and who subsequently–and suspiciously–died three days later. Others were intrigued by the series of Supreme Court cases decided this past summer that spotlighted the separation of church and state. Still others loved digging into questions of family loyalty by reflecting on Harry, Meghan, and the British Royal Family.
We would like to share the official assignment with you as well as excerpts from some of our sample student work below. Enjoy!
Clearly, while Kreon perceives it as his kingly right to forbid the burial of Polynices, Antigone believes not only that such an order is not within his realm of authority, but also that conforming to the law may condemn both her and her brother to perpetual suffering. If she followed Kreon’s order, Polynices would be trapped in the mortal world and Antigone’s unfulfilled duty to bury him would anger the gods. In this sense, the protesters have a similar mindset to Antigone, and must feel just as invisible. It is on the account of safety that they feel the need to protest and organize marches. Like Kreon, the government is taking a long time to respond to such tragedies as Uvalde, and arguably, a couple hundred people’s lives could have been saved if there were more restrictions on who can hold a firearm, and at what age. The protesters worry that if the government waits too long, it might just be too late, and Antigone may be retold in a much more tragic way. -LO
The king Kreon believes that women “must be women and not freely roam,” defining that to be a woman means a life of restriction (29). In a similar way, receiving a lower wage simply because of gender puts women in a box; no matter how persistent and hardworking they strive to be, it is more difficult for them to be able to reach the same level of income as men doing the same job due to the systematic injustice in our society today. -AM
Both Antigone and the abortion debate pose the question of what should one do when you are faced with a law or rule that violates your personal moral and religious beliefs. If one were to break the governmental law due to their own beliefs as to what is right or wrong, there would still need to be consequences, otherwise the country would not be governed by rules or laws, but rather by what each person thinks is moral or right. While a citizen can disagree with civil laws based on their own religious or moral beliefs, the duty of a citizen of a country, in most cases, is to follow the law, but then seek to change it through legal means. This means a citizen can protest laws legally, can try to change the law through elections or the political system, or can challenge the law through the courts....However, the abortion debate can be seen as raising the difficult question of what is a patently unjust or morally wrong law. The answer to this question seems to depend on your religious and moral beliefs. For one person, abortion is murder. For another, it is protected healthcare and a choice for your own body. In the end, both Antigone and the debate over abortion demonstrate that the duty of a citizen may be to challenge unjust laws within the boundaries of the law, but they also highlight the difficulty in resolving a conflict between your moral and religious beliefs and civil law, particularly where citizens of the state have widely different religious and moral beliefs. -ET
Nadeen Ebrahim’s article addresses the grief in Iran driven by the death of Mahsa Amini, paralleling Antigone’s own grief for her dead brother. The death of a loved one evoked sorrow and inspired these Iranian women to challenge the law and have the courage to fight against bigger powers. Antigone responds to grief by burying her brother Polyneices against King Kreon’s rule, and the women in Iran are boldly protesting against the Iranian government by marching on streets and cutting their hair to display their anger over the death of a young woman. This grief is a universal feeling connecting an ancient text to a modern news article. -AW