How is the theme of death portrayed in Antigone and The Outsider?

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Nadezhda Mushkovskaia.  003257-015

How is the theme of death portrayed in “Antigone” and “The Outsider”?

Death is presented to the audience as a form of punishment, in both The Outsider and Antigone. But the protagonists in the two texts develop different attitudes towards death.  Antigone anticipates her own death from the opening scene and faces it bravely, but her confidence wanes after she is sentenced by Creon and she begins to appreciate what she will lose. Meursault, on the other hand, is surprised and horrified when the court decides his punishment, but towards his conclusion of the story he accepts it.

In the opening scene of Antigone, Antigone announces to the audience and her sister Ismene, her determination to bury her brother: “Be as you will; but I will bury him”. According to Creon’s laws, this is a crime to be punished by death, whereas for Antigone, the consequences of not burying her brother are worse than dying. Antigone shows clear awareness of the consequences of disobeying Creon’s edict:  “I knew I must die – how could I not?”, and therefore her confidence makes her an extremely courageous character. By the use of this rhetorical question, Antigone makes it plain that there is no other way. Her reasons for disobeying Creon include pleasing the Gods: “I know that I am pleasing those I should most please”. Antigone defends her actions on behalf of her philos. She explains the importance of pleasing her philos as well as the Gods of the underworld. By the use of word “most” she prioritizes her philos and the Gods above Creon. Antigone does not see herself as a criminal, and emphasizes that it is only Creon who will consider her a criminal. She states that she is “guilty of the crime of holy reverence”. This highlights Antigone’s morality, and at the same time works against Creon in the eyes of the audience. Antigone is initially depicted to have no fear of her own death and this is further demonstrated through her feeling that her death could be to her advantage. She accepts her death with equanimity:”to meet this fate is no pain at all”. Sophocles crafts Antigone’s philosophical reasoning as a way for the audience to admire and agree with her rather than with Creon’s laws. The stichomythia between Creon and Antigone serves to present the opposing views of both characters and their certainty of the righteousness of their actions. Through Antigone’s reasoning, the audience is persuaded that for her, there can be no alternative solution but her death. Sophocles has Antigone reach the conclusion that there will be honor in her death. Antigone firmly decides that her situation offers no alternatives: “for I will suffer nothing as bad as an ignoble death”. It can be therefore deduced that Antigone takes her actions rationally and, initially, meets her death with composure.

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Unlike Antigone, who knowingly chooses to do actions that will inevitably lead to her own death and then faces it with self-control and pride, neither Meursault nor his lawyer anticipate that Meursault’s punishment could be death. Meursault is therefore taken unawares by his death sentence and at first reacts in a shocked manner. In contrast to Antigone, Meursault goes to jail for the murder of an Arab. Meursault does not regret his crime, nor does he sympathize with his victim. He regards his crime in a manner that seems divorced from any thought of the consequences of his actions. During ...

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