The Need to Disobey
Both Antigone by Sophocles and “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (“LBJ”) by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) are stories which portray the theme of civil disobedience. Antigone is a play written by Sophocles that takes place in Thebes, Greece. Antigone arrives in Thebes and learns that both of her brothers died in war. Her brother Etocles has been given a proper burial while Creon, the King of Thebes, refuses to bury her other brother Polynices because he was a traitor. Antigone chooses to break the law and buries her brother, and gets caught. Despite the pleas of Antigone and Haemon, Creon’s son and Antigone’s fiancé, Creon sentences Antigone to death by live burial and starvation. Feeling that it is a better option than taking the sentence, Antigone hangs herself, and when Haemon finds her, he kills himself out of despair. Queen Eurydice, Haemon’s mother and Creon’s wife, kills herself with a sharp knife. Creon is left in sorrow and distress when he too late finds that he has made a fatal mistake. On the other hand, “Letter from Birmingham Jail” is an essay written by MLK that he wrote in the city jail in Birmingham, Alabama. He had been arrested for parading without a permit during his non-violent protest against racial segregation. His letter is addressed to the “fellow clergymen” who criticized his work. Both writings have a character who defies the civil law because it breaks the moral law. However, the writings are also different in many ways. Overall, MLK’s “LBJ” is better than Sophocles’ Antigone.
Firstly, “LBJ” is better than Antigone because the theme is portrayed in a more positive and successful way. In Antigone, it is clear that civil disobedience brought Antigone to an untimely death as Creon finds out, “Too late, too late you see what justice means” (p. 124, l. 1400-1401). Though Antigone fully disobeys Creon’s law by burying her brother, her actions are not successful and lead to her death instead of her triumph. Only after...
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