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Antigone

Part VI

Summary Part VI

Antigone's act and march to death are now entirely gratuitous. Her insistence on her tragic fate reveals that their political, moral, filial, and religious motivations were entirely external. Again, what drives Antigone is her desire. Thus Creon offers the dazed Antigone the promise of human happiness: the pleasure in the banalities of the garden bench, the child playing at one's feet, and the tool in one's hand. This vision of human happiness provokes Antigone's final, fatal explosion. She refuses to moderate herself—she will have everything as beautiful as it was when she was a child or die. If Haemon and she stop thinking the other is dead when one is five minutes late or if he stops feeling utterly alone in the world when she laughs without his knowing why, she does not love him. Antigone insists on her desire in its unmeasured, infantile form.

This insistence on her desire makes her monstrous. Once again, Creon tells Antigone to scream on in her father's voice, leading Antigone comes to claim her invoke her lineage against him. Again, against the common reading of the Antigone legend as a play about the conflict between family and state or public and private, Antigone does not appeal to Oedipus here in some sense of filial loyalty. She does so because Oedipus is the model of her abjection. Oedipus was ugly as she. Like Oedipus, however, she will become beautiful at the moment when he lost all hope, at the moment of his total ruin, the moment when he passed beyond the human community in his transgression of its founding taboo.

Here Creon also introduces the figure of the thin and pale youth, the assassin whom Creon has long expected. As he tells Antigone, this assassin would remain impervious to all argument, replying to the king with his hatred alone. This youth clearly evokes the fantasmic rebel Creon first imagined upon the discovery of Polynices' shovel. To Creon's surprise, this youth has revealed himself to be Antigone. He is also, however, a double for Creon, or rather, a figure for Creon's adolescent self. Thus Creon hears his youthful voice in Antigone's. He sees in Antigone a self similarly committed to self-sacrifice. Perhaps this self could have also been the present Creon's enemy and assassin. Whatever the case, Antigone smashes this self-image that Creon sees in her body, insisting upon her radical alterity or otherness. Refusing to reflect his self-image, she laughs at Creon because she sees the same impotence he must have had as a boy.