Judgments and Antigone Throughout history mankind has always been faced with judgments. According the Oxford English Dictionary, judgment means “the mental ability to form an opinion” (AHD, 454). We are forced to make decisions based on our “mental opinions.” Then, ones actions are based on mental opinions which are judged by other people. Then there is the inevitable justification of these actions by other people or the person themselves. According the Oxford English Dictionary, justify means “to demonstrate sufficient legal reason for (an action taken)” (456). Once those actions are justified, they are considered morally and legally acceptable and are therefore are left alone. However, many times in a persons life, some decisions based on judgments are not justifiable. That is what causes conflict and separation among people.
Often this disparity in perception on judgment leads to crime and punishment. This is very apparent in young children. If a younger brother bothers his older sibling, the older sibling often cannot understand why. So he or she feels that the younger siblings action is not justifiable. Since it cannot logically be justified, the older brother or sister usually decides to punish the younger sibling by hitting him or her.
This leads to crime and punishment. Now it is difficult for the parents of those children to justify the reason for argument. So they punish their children by putting them in timeout. And this whole concept is what underlines both Antigone, by Sophocles and The Reader, by Bernard Schlink. In both stories, judgments arise and decisions are made based on those judgments. When those judgments cannot be justified, they are sent to be judged upon by a higher authority. This is all due to a difference in opinion which leads back to whether those unjustifiable decisions were considered a crime that deserve punishment.
The focus of this paper is to point out some decisions based on judgments that could not be justified. It is also a discussion questions the possibility of justification in these judgments. When a person thinks of Antigone, his or her first thought is usually, “Oh yes, I know her, she was that tragic hero.” This shows that Antigone did something right, and was falsely accused because one, heroes do not ever do anything wrong, and two, something tragic or uncalled for happened to her. Basically, Antigone lived with her sister in their uncles royal house in Thebes. Creon was king there, and his decisions, opinions, and judgments were the law in Thebes.
Laws that even superceded the laws of the gods. Creons power shows when he and Heamon are having a conversation; Heamon was angered by his fathers thought to kill his fiancée and reacted by questioning. “Protect your rights? / When you trample down the honors of the gods?” (Schilb 1328). Heamon was trying to say that Creons right to make judgments could not be defended when those judgments go against the Gods. Creon reacted by saying “Is that so! / Now, by heaven, I promise you, youll pay- / taunting, insulting me! Bring her out,/ that hateful- shell die now, here, / in front of his eyes, beside her groom” (1328-1329). This proves as an example of Creons power in Thebes.
Antigone did the worst possible thing in Thebes. She defied the power of her uncle. After Antigones brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, killed each other in combat, Antigone was saddened. What made her feel worse was that Polynices was not to be buried and paid respect to because Creon did not like him. Grief-stricken, Antigone decided that she was going to bury her brother no matter what the cost.
So she went ahead and buried her Polynices. Antigones determination was shown in her conversation with her sister Ismene when Antigone said: Why not? Our own brothers burial! / Hasnt Creon graced one with all the rites,/ disgraced the other? Eteocles, they say, / has been given full military honors, / rightly so- Creons laid him in the earth/ and he goes with glory down among the dead. / But the body of Polynices, who died miserably/ – why, a city-wide proclamation, rumor has it,/ forbids anyone to bury him, even mourn him. / Hes to be unwept, unburied, a lovely treasure/ for birds that scan the field and feast to their hearts content. (1308) Antigone was able to justify her judgment that it was all right to bury her brother because he deserved to be mourned just like Eteocles.
There was nothing that could have stopped Antigone from burying her brother. So she listened to her mental opinions and made a decision to bury Polynices. Creon however, could not make sense of Antigones action to bury her brother. When Creon hears about the burial of Polynices he reacted by saying “What? / What man alive would dare-” (1314). This shows that Creon is not used to being defied by people in his own kingdom.
He even thought that the Sentry committed the crime and said to him “Yes you did- / whats more, you squandered your life for silver” (1316). Pleading for help the Sentry reacts saying “Oh its a terrible thing when the one who does the judging judges things all wrong” (1316). Creon answers by saying; “Well now you just be careful about your judgments- / if you fail to produce the criminals for me, youll swear your dirty money brought you pain” (1316). A very powerful statement, Creon judged the actions of others and tried to justify them. However, he could not justify why someone would go against his word. So in anger he blamed anyone including the Sentry.
That is when the Sentry tells Creon that his perception is out of whack and he needs to reassess his thoughts. Creon tells the Sentry that unless the Sentry and his men cannot find the criminal, then the Sentry will be found guilty of committing the crime. After Creon found out that Antigone committed the crime he reacted with such shock and said “Prisoner! Her? You took her- where, doing what? /.. What? / You mean what you say, youre telling me the truth?/.. What did you see? Did you catch her in the act?” (1318) Since Antigone was family Creon decided to give her the benefit of the doubt.
But after Antigone admitted that she buried Polynices Creon got angry. He was confused about her actions and decided to punish her by executing her. Then Antigone and Creon argue upon whether or not Antigone had done a favor to a traitor. Antigone felt no remorse for going against her kingdoms law because in her opinion “No matter- Death longs for the same rites for all” (1322). Basically Antigone and Creon had different opinions on every issue. Antigone felt she was moral for paying respects to her brother.
While Creon thought that Antigone was a criminal because she defied his perception and buried a traitor. The action based on judgments that Antigone took led to her death. And the action that Creon took based on his judgments led to the death of his son and wife. The death of Antigone, because of her own judgment and Creons actions based on the others judgments, led to Heamon making the decision based on his own judgments and decision: to rather die than live without Antigone. This led to the decision of Eurydice, which was based on all the decisions of judgment made by Antigone, Creon, and Heamon, to kill herself.
And this left Creon all alone because of his own actions based on his mental opinion. In all of these judgments, the one thing that gets clouded was the fact that there was no justice. Everyone lost. Justice was served to no one because they all had different judgments on the same course of action. So whose judgment was mos …