Oedipus The King And Antigone: Rationality Versus Emotionalism

1026 words - 4 pages

Rationality is the quality or state of being agreeable to reason; it is this item that separates man from animal. Man and beast, however, still have something in common: in an emotional state, both are subject to acting irrationally. For instance, a normally very loving pet can become violent simply because one of his toys was taken away - not to say that he is no longer loving, he is just overwhelmed by anger. Likewise, in Sophocles's Oedipus Rex and Antigone, the protagonists Oedipus and Creon (who appears in both stories) exhibit a similar disposition as the "loving pet:" while they are usually reasonable, having their fates verbally revealed to them triggers an emotion that results in them behaving irrationally. Sophocles uses confident diction and curiosity as symbols of reason and emotion respectively as well as certain metaphors in order to exhibit this complex attitude concerning rationality and emotionalism within humans.

In Oedipus Rex, Oedipus's diction, as well as Creon's diction in Antigone, undergo a transformation - from confident, brave, and kingly to shamefully curious and lost. At the very beginning, Oedipus uses certain words that implicitly emit confidence: "You shall see how I stand by you, as I should, / To avenge the city and the city's god..." (Oedipus Prologue: 9) Sophocles demonstrates how Oedipus is talking down to Creon by using the words "you" and "I." "You" is only used when a person is either socially on par or superior to another and "I" is stated when one has confidence in himself. This confidence permitted Oedipus to act reasonably by trying to solve the problem by uncovering information - completed usually via questions. Once Oedipus's aggressively curious nature emerges, he changes "I" to "we:" "In God's name, we all beg you - " and "You would betray us all..." By using the collective noun "we," Oedipus suggests himself and everyone, symbolizing how he needs others' help to influence Teiresias into exposing his knowledge. He even uses derogatory names, such as "wicked old man," and "you" interchangeably when speaking to the blind prophet. (Oedipus I: 18) Although his essential intentions are to rid Thebes of the famine, Oedipus resorting to name-calling in order to get what he wants is not only a sign of illogicality, but also a sign of weakness, characteristics that juxtapose his previously composed manner. Ironically, especially since he had been considered the reasonable man in Oedipus Rex, Creon's character in Antigone had acted analogously to Oedipus's character. He, too, had quite confident diction at the beginning of the story:

"This is my command, and you can see the wisdom behind it. As long as I am King, no traitor is going to be honored with the loyal man. But whoever shows by word and deed that he is on the side of the State, -- he shall have my respect while he is living, and my reverence when he is dead" (Antigone I: 197)

Each statement, or declaration, was concise and straightforward...

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