Morals are defined to be the principle of what is right from what is wrong. What defines whether something is right or wrong is based purely on ones judgment and perspective. Staying true to personal beliefs and morals can sometimes be problematic to retain when conflicting with the written law. In Antigone by Sophocles, Antigone disregards the decree of her uncle Creon, King of Thebes, which forbids anybody to bury Antigone’s brother Polynices who was killed in battle. Although Polynices is considered a traitor to the land of Thebes, Antigone feels that to respect the wishes of the gods she must burry him.
She faithfully acts upon her morals, even though they oppose the law. However, in the story “On the Rainy River” by Tim O’Brien, Tim is not so persistent with his loyalty to his morals. Although he is very against the war he has been drafted into, in the end he ends up going to battle due to his fear of letting his family and country down. While both Tim and Antigone struggle with a moral decision, Antigone is more genuine than Tim about her commitment to her beliefs and as a result ended up having a greater impact on her society and family.
Without even contemplating the repercussions she would face, Antigone selflessly decides to bury her brother against her uncle’s will. She states, “I will bury him by myself. And even if I die in the act that death will be a glory” (Sophocles 63). She shows her perseverance in standing by her morals by saying this. She says she will bury him her self, displaying how proud she truly is of her pious rebellion. Her willingness to jump into the hands of death, for a sacred burial of her brother, is uncanny.
When confronting her sister, Ismene, about her plan to bury their dear brother, Ismene feels that it is the unlawful thing to do so decides not to participate. Ismene then tells Antigone that she will support her sister silently, and will not tell anyone of it. Antigone’s response is, “Dear god, shout it from the rooftops. I’ll hate you all the most for silence- tell the world! ” (Sophocles 64). She manifests signs of civil disobedience by saying to “shout it from the rooftops”. She wants all of Thebes to know of the struggles she went through to burry her brother, and wants to get caught and make an example out of her situation.
She is fighting against Creon’s ruling and his beliefs against women. By burying Polynices, not only is Antigone staying true to her morals, she is also proving that women can hold power. After the burial has been effectuated, Creon finds out Antigone is the one who indeed did it and asks her how she feels about her crime. She responds by saying, “Not ashamed for a moment, not to honor my brother, my own flesh and blood” (84). Antigone is brave and does not conceal what she has done. She owns up to her actions and takes responsibility with poise.
Due to her unlawful acts, Creon declares, “Death will do it for me- break their marriage off. ” (Sophocles 90) Not only is Creon proclaiming that he wants Antigone’s marriage proposal to his son, Haemon, to be severed, but he also wants her terminated. He does this to make an example of her, as she is family, so that his citizens fear him. But as Haemon sees Antigone dead, he decided to take his own life. The queen then finds out her beloved son is no longer living, and stabs herself at the alter. This trickling affect left Creon with no family left, “slaughter heaped on slaughter? ” (Sophocles 125).
Antigone’s brave stance on the situation, ultimately leads to her death and the death of many loved ones around her, leaving Creon to a world by himself. Thebes is experiencing a great extent of mayhem watching their king struggle so severely. Tim says he wants to run away from the war in fear of breaking his morals. He feels that the war goes against everything that he stands for, “If you support a war, if you think its worth the price, that’s fine, but you have to put your own precious fluids on the line” (O’Brien 2). Tim does not think he should have to fight in a war that he is against.
Even though Tim seems to live by his morals, some of his actions are ironic. Tim is a pacifist, yet he watches pigs get killed everyday. He works in a slaughterhouse, taking out the blot clots from dead pigs by shooting the carcass with a water gun. For someone who doesn’t believe in fighting or killing, his job is pretty gruesome. Tim has an internal struggle deciding whether or not to go to the war, “My conscience told me to run, but some irrational and powerful force was resisting, like a weight pushing me toward the war. What it came down to, stupidly, was a sense of shame.
Hot, stupid shame. ” (6). Tim knows that if he does not go to the war he will feel guilty. He will not be able to handle the amount of “shame” he would feel if he ran away. The “shame” he talks about comes from, “All those eyes on me—the town, the whole universe—and I couldn’t risk the embarrassment. It was as if there were an audience to my life” (10). Tim thinks that other people will judge him for not going to the war. The pressure of having his family and friends disapprove of his actions is what ends up forcing him to go to the war.
This is contradictory because if Tim feels so strongly about his morals, then he should not care about what other people think because to him, running away would be morally correct. It seems as though Tim does not want to run away from the war because it goes against his morals. He seems more afraid of getting physically hurt, or killed in the war. Tim shows a lack of dedication to his morals because in the end he fights in the war. By still going to the war against his wills, he has no impact on his society around him or his family; he only kills his own hopes and dreams.
Antigone defies the written law of Creon, and takes the actions of fulfilling the needs of her morals. On the other hand, Tim takes a step back from rebellion and do the rightful thing in eyes of the law. Antigone is very adamant and proud of her morals, and takes pride in them, which ends up having a drastic affect on her surroundings. Tim runs away from his problems, leaving no change from what he believes in. Both stories demonstrate the struggles one can go through to stay true to their principals. The distinction between them is the impact the actions taken by Antigone and Tim to fulfill these moral, have on their society and family.