The Will Of One Essay

Submitted By justherefortheessays
Words: 3463
Pages: 14

Gregory Edwards
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
To Be Lawful Or To Be Good: A Three-way Comparison Between Antigone, Odale’s Choice and The Island
Sophocles’ Antigone follows the fate of one of Oedipus' daughters, born of his incestuous relationship with his mother. The play starts with Antigone bringing her sister, Ismene, terrible news. Just before the start of Antigone, their brother Polynices led an army against Eteocles for the right to inherit their father's throne. The brothers took each other's lives. Creon, now undisputed master of Thebes once more, has ordered that Polynices' body be put on display as a traitor. Kamau Braithwaite’s play, Odale’s Choice, repeats Antigone’s struggle. The play starts with the news of Odale’s uncle Creon crushing a rebellion led by Odale’s brother Tawia. He kills Tawia and then orders his men to leave Tawia’s body unburied as a price of his treachery. The Island, Athol Fugard’s play about two prisoners at Robben Island during apartheid-era South Africa, at first seems unrelated. However, Winston, like Odale and Antigone, must choose between once he finds out that his cellmate and friend John is getting his sentence shortened while he is serving life, and has to contemplate how he will spend his days without John. All three characters face the same moral question: What exactly is the “right” thing to do? What the law tells you to do, or what you know is morally right? Antigone takes the stance that neither side is in the right due to how militant they are in the stance that they take, while Odale’s Choice and The Island take the stance that it is better to be Lawful than Good
Both Antigone and Odale begin as optimists, while Winston begins as a cynic. Both Antigone and Odale are optimistic in that their actions (ie. Burying their brothers) are the right decision to make. Antigone does not hesitate to be disrespectful towards her uncle, saying that she was not about to break the law out of fear of “some man’s wounded pride” (Antigone 509 – 510) and belittles him, saying that his punishment of “doom” is “precious little pain” (Antigone, 519 – 520) and outright calls him a fool for believing that she would fear a human law more than the retribution that she would face from the gods for not burying Polynices and allowing him to pass on into the afterlife (Antigone, 521 – 524). Odale goes even further; while Antigone talks about her actions as if she made a decision, Odale, when questioned, answers that there was no choice for her and that she was going to uphold the law of the gods (Odale’s Choice, page 28), implying that following the laws of her uncle was never once on her mind, fully optimistic that this is the right choice to make. In contrast, Winston is incredibly despondent about his situation; having burned his pass-book which identified him as a black man, the South African court imprisons Winston for life. He curses his situation, saying that he “chose life, not bloody death” after being brutally beaten in the opening scene (The Township Plays, page 195). He shows fear over what his life is going to be as he grows older in an increasingly oppressive society such as Robben Island, not wishing to become like Old Harry, another prisoner serving a life sentence and one who has been doing so far longer than Winston. Harry acts as a grim reminder to Winston what his life could end up like, seeing that Harry has been forced to chisel blocks of stone for so long that “he’s forgotten himself…why he’s here, where he came from” ( The Township Plays, page 220 – 221). Most importantly, he resents his cellmate John, who gets his sentence shortened to three months, something that Winston could never hope for. He resents John because he fears that once John returns to the outside life he left, he’d forget him and all the times the duo spent together during their stay at Robben Island. (The Township Plays, page 220). As each play progresses, however, Antigone and Winston switch philosophical views. Once