What is the primary moral conflict in Antigone? Why does this qualify as the main moral conflict?
The Antigone by Sophocles is a marvelous piece of literature having crystal clear conflict. The main moral conflict in this regard is to decide which value is fundamental and powerful in its real essence, either law of God or the law of the city. In character depiction, this conflict arises between Antigone and Creon; the latter is the king of Thebes and Antigone’s uncle-in-law. The conflict arises on the death of Antigone’s brother Polyneices who was considered an enemy of the city. She describes the situation, “It’s the burial of our two brothers. Creon Promotes one of them and shames the other” (Line 21-22). The city rule states that enemies are not to be buried. Antigone declares, “I’ll heap the earth upon my dearest brother’s grave” (Line-81). And regarding Creon’s fear and terror, she firmly asserts, “He has no right to keep me from my own” (Line-48). The qualification of this conflict as the main conflict is justified because the theme of this literary piece by Sophocles revolves around the clash between man mad law and God-made law.
Moreover, according to the writer’s approach, the conflict is not resolved in its idealistic approach. Antigone had to face the death penalty for what she had done. She died, but before death, she declares golden words, “There’s no shame in having respect for a brother” (Line-511). She buried her brother, gave preference to God’s law over city’s law but contrary to her actions, the ruling elite did not accept her version. In other words, living souls ended, but the conflict remains lively. Meanwhile, the end of the novel also affirms that conflict remains as such but life ends.
However, Aristotelian virtue ethic can play an active and pivotal role in interpreting and resolving the conflict. According to Aristotle, being a combination of bad and good traits, a person is virtuous if he possesses ideal traits. These are “natural tendencies” that need nourishment and become stable with the passage of time. Regarding conflict resolving capacity, he believed that the ultimate desire of humanity is happiness, and virtues are actions that can fulfill this need. In this regard, the main entity required is a logical and rational performance of virtuous habits. In other words, being logical and having solid reason based on virtue can end and resolve conflicts.
Hartigan, K. V. (2002). Antigone. Classical Bulletin, 78(2), 213.