The Fatal Consequences Of Pride English Literature Essay

An Analysis of Pride in Antigone and House of the spirits. The drama, ‘Antigone’ by Sophocles and the novel involving magic realism, social and political upheavals ‘House of the Spirits’ by Isabel Allende, provide details regarding the societal norms and consequences of letting one’s pride go against the set rules. Both books, written centuries apart, share similar characteristics among their characters in terms of personal attributes.

Pride is one of the most significant yet dangerous emotions for humans as it can be really destructive if not maintained to certain intensity. It is not surprising that there are many allusions found to its effect on the characters’ lives in the novels. Every so often a person’s pride lies in their achievements that have given them satisfaction or a reason to realize their own value, however it has not gone unnoticed how pride transforms into a haughty attitude that leads to nothing but devastation of the person, his life and the lives of the people around him. In the two literary works above, pride is of great importance because it helps to develop the plot by characterizing each of the main characters- Antigone, King Creon and Esteban Trueba, distinctively. To a great extent, their pride contributes to their way of life, and relationship with others in the family as well as of the community.

In the opening of the drama, ‘Antigone’, the readers discover that Eteocles and Polyneices (Antigone and Ismene’s brothers) died fighting over the throne after their father, King Oedipus, died infamous for his offenses. The throne was to be shared between the two brothers who both deserved it and were to rule together but each of them was narcissistic to do so. As a result of this pride being proud both brothers murdered each other mercilessly and left the crown to the closest male relative their uncle- King Creon. Unlike Antigone’s two brothers, Nicholas and Jaime in House of the Spirits did not ever fight for a position in their father’s political legacy nor did they have any interest in doing so. However both of them were just as proud as Eteocles and Polyneices but in other ways, such as not accepting something they are told by their father, Esteban Trueba. An example of this is when Esteban told Nicholas to join him in the political career and he blatantly refused since he did not want his father to rule over him.*

Maliciously, King Creon grants only Eteocles an honorable burial while Polyneices a dishonorable one. At this point it seems that King Creon was supporting Eteocles in his fight for the throne. Compelled by her love and affection for her brother, Antigone cries out in disgust when she discovers that Polyneices has been left unburied.

‘…that no one may bury

or mourn him, but must see him unlamented,

unburied, a sweet find for birds to feast upon.’

Accordingly, that disgust leads to the display of Antigone’s prideful nature that she questions the King’s orders to Ismene, her sister, not to bury Polyneices and dares him to publicly stone her who is of noble birth as he is.

She determines to bury her brother at any cost- the cost being the penalty of death and reprimands Ismene who is too weak to fight for her brother’s justice. She adamantly states that King Creon has no right to keep her from her own brother and hence keep her from burying him.

‘I’ll bury my brother-your brother too,

Though you refuse! I’ll not be found a traitor’

Likewise Esteban in House of the Spirits was very determined to bury Rosa in the mausoleum he had built despite the fact that the Del Valle family objected to it. Just like Antigone, Esteban fails to recognize that Rosa was unmarried, thus not his wife, hence her family interring her as per the set rules.

‘If they won’t give her to us, we’ll have to take her by force’

Antigone’s blatant disregard of the King’s edict and Esteban’s indifference to Rosa’s family while considering his selfish desires, both show their pride coming out forcefully. Furthermore Antigone even tries to show that the King and Ismene are going against the gods’ commands to bury the dead. Whereas Antigone’s pride comes out constructively in wanting an honorable burial for Polyneices, Esteban’s pride dishonors the dead Rosa and her family by removing her from her resting place.

As much as we have seen Antigone’s pride through love, affection, and devotion for her brother she suddenly changes by exulting her deed and makes it a personal offensive to the King. In addition, Esteban is happily proud of having transformed Tres Marias.

‘That place is just a lawless heap of rocks, a no-man’s land’

As fast as Tres Marias transformed into a model estate, so did Esteban’s pride turn into despising the peasant’s efforts and hard work into completing the transition, to commend his own efforts.

In a scene where Antigone is presented before King Creon as the lawbreaker, Antigone is seen not to regret the fact that she went against the edict. Understandingly this impenitent attitude is not as a result of achieving her first goal, but comes in because she undermines the King’s orders even after she has offended him. Upon being questioned, she replied impudently how she would only follow that edict if it was set by the gods of humanity and justice. This shows that Antigone does not think King Creon is right to punish her.

‘Nor did I think your edict had such force

that you, a mere mortal, could override the gods…’

We see how high Antigone holds herself and also probably a hidden motive she had for burying her brother – that of the fame that goes with being a dutiful sister and defying the King. She goes on to voice what she thinks that the citizens of Thebes think; how Creon is a tyrant and how he terrifies the citizens so that they don’t say anything against him. This demonstrates Antigone’s prideful nature that doubts Creon’s ability to rule.

‘…could my fame be more gloriously,

established than by placing my brother in a tomb?’

This transition of pride after her act of burying her dead brother seems to be self-serving. She does not understand Ismene is trying to take the blame so as to protect her from getting sentenced to death and not to share her fame. Nevertheless, Antigone rejects Ismene’s help by stating:

‘But Justice will not allow this to you,

since neither did you want nor did I share it’

Aside from Antigone, Esteban also doesn’t comprehend that joint effort made Tres Marias flourish and not just his resources and orders.

Antigone has no regard for Creon which is constantly seen throughout their conversation. What we are left pondering about is – is it because his initial actions led to the two brothers fighting each other? Antigone constantly reminds Creon how his opinion or punishment holds no value. Agreeably, she has no regrets and is in fact gloating by knowing the reality that Creon cannot do more than just sentencing her to death and terms his statements as:

‘Some man’s opinion…’

Creon’s pride of his position and stature in Thebes prompts him to turn Polyneices into a villain, even though he is guilty of the same crime as Eteocles. King Creon is corrupted by the same power that drove these men to death. By releasing the controversial edict, it seems that King Creon wanted to establish his authority on Thebes.

Although the Sentry tells Creon that it is the gods’ wish to bury Polyneices, because of his pride Creon continues to believe that the gods do not honor a criminal – the criminal being Polyneices. He is too proud to realize that he is also a criminal for making a city law that violates a religious law. As a result of his pride, Creon shall later suffer as the gods punish him for his disrespect by him losing everyone he calls his own. Creon’s pride leads to his stubbornness that what he thinks and says is right! Even if it means to dishonor the gods or failing to be just. Creon is proud of his decisions and cannot tolerate anyone questioning him regarding them.

‘What? The city is the king’s – that’s the law!’

Similarly, Esteban Trueba, in House of the Spirits, does not consider anyone’s opinion above his own. Neither does he tolerate anyone’s opposition nor does he ever let anyone talk back to him.

Unlike King Creon who got the throne by sheer luck, Esteban worked hard in order to restore the ruins of Tres Marias, becoming a well known patron of that hacienda. While King Creon sets laws and stands by them, Esteban is a man who preaches water but drinks wine. He forbids his daughter, Blanca from having any kind of relationship with peasants such as Pedro Tercero yet he visits prostitutes and rapes women belonging to lower classes from Tres Marias and neighboring haciendas for his pleasure.

‘Not a girl passed from puberty to adulthood that he did not subject to the woods, the riverbank, or the wrought-iron bed.’

We also see Creon’s pride exhibited as a man superior to women just as Esteban. Creon is insulted at the very thought that a mere woman dared to disobey him, stating that no woman would rule while he lived. He further goes on to say Antigone and Ismene shall be imprisoned until the execution takes place, “not free to roam” like all women are. Esteban, on the other hand, is defied by Clara who innocently goes against almost everything Esteban says. An example of this is seen as Esteban always wants Clara to take care of him as all wives do; however Clara is often busy consulting the spirits with the Mora sisters.

In House of the Spirits, although Blanca is in love with Pedro Tercero or so she says, she rejects Pedro’s marriage proposals, seemingly thinking just like her father and his belief in social classes. Blanca has no money yet she wouldn’t ask her father for some but unwilling to settle down with a middle class man. On the other hand, Antigone and Haemon – both nobles, share a very intense relationship. Haemon’s love was so intense that he did not hesitate killing himself when he found Antigone dead. On the contrary, Antigone did not consider their relationship when she took her life.

As a result of King Creon abiding by his laws, he triggers, unknowingly, a disastrous chain of events. Firstly, he incarcerates Antigone, leading to a pride fuelled Antigone ending her life beforehand. Secondly, Haemon kills himself over Antigone. In sum to this, his death reaches his mother, Eurydice, who suffers a heart attack and dies.

In conclusion, and tragically, the main characters in Antigone and House of the Spirits end their lives, and desire death. Creon finds himself alone and wrong all along wishing death upon himself.

‘Come, let it come! – that best of fates for me

that brings the final day, best fate of all.’

Esteban, also, acknowledges that he has always been proud which has led him to suffer more than most people. He does admit to a few mistakes but unlike Creon doesn’t regret his actions and his life in general.

Antigone’s pride in her beliefs and King Creon’s pride in his status as king, both lead to their destruction. Consequently, Antigone loses her life and King Creon on the other hand loses his son, wife, respect as King and his respect for himself. In all, both affect the people around them negatively, that is, death. Comparatively, Esteban’s pride results in both positive and negative developments. Positive in terms of developing Tres Marias, earning a fortune yet negative in terms of driving everyone around him away, either by death or mental detachment, and also developing an exploitative nature. Therefore pride, although seen as evil and coming before a fall, often drives people in being creative, ambitious and assertive.






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