An analysis of the portrayal of social conflicts and political conflicts in Antigone and The House of The Spirits. A conflict is a dispute between thoughts, ideas, principles or people that arises from a difference of opinions. It has been seen throughout the history of this world that there have always been political conflicts and social conflicts amongst people to bring a change in their lives or nation. This is partly the reason why many authors have portrayed political and social conflicts in their books for example in The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende and Antigone by Sophocles. In this essay my aim is to explore how political and social conflicts characterize and develop the themes of both the books.
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Starting with the book The House of the Spirits, we can clearly see from the beginning that there is a struggle between social classes for example we see conflicts between the patrón and the peasants of Tres Marías since the patrón thinks the peasants are not worth anything and cannot take responsibility of any work. This is shown when Esteban once says, “What they don’t realize is that poor people are completely ignorant and uneducated. They’re like children, they can’t handle responsibility. How could they know what’s best for them?” (The House of the Spirits Society and Class quotes) This shows us that there was a social conflict between the two classes namely, the upper class and the lower class. This kind of social conflict was mainly brought out by the author in the book through omniscient narration where the author communicated to the reader about the thoughts and feelings of the characters at a certain point in time. This helped us to understand the feelings and views of the character better.
Another social conflict was Trueba family versus the Garcia family. This conflict is brought out as the cycle of violence in the book. As it is seen in the book that the patrón rapes Pancha Garcia whose grandson rapes the granddaughter of Esteban. This is shown when Alba says;
“Afterward the grandson of the woman who was raped repeats the geture with the granddaughter of the rapist, and perhaps forty years from now my grandson will knock Garcia’s granddaughter” (Allende)
We also see the portrayal of social conflicts in Antigone through the clashes between the family members that is to say the family conflicts. As we know they are differences in opinions between Antigone and her sister, Ismene and also between Antigone and Creon. We also see clashes between Creon and his son Haemon. Firstly the conflict between Antigone and Ismene brought out two contrasting women of that time. Ismene who was portrayed by the author as an ideal woman of that time and while Antigone was portrayed as the exact opposite of Ismene. This can be shown in one of the dialogues where Ismene says, “If we break the law and die for it,
"Our shame will last forever.
Women are not made to battle men.” (Sophocles)
To which Antigone responds by saying,
“You’ve made your choice but I will bury him,
And I will welcome death in doing it.” (Sophocles)
From this we can clearly see that Ismene is timid and is scared to break the laws made by the men who she thinks are superior to her. Whereas Antigone is of an assertive nature and is not scared to break the laws so as to obey the gods and respect the dead.
The conflict between Ismene and Antigone was brought out through the structure of the dialogues. Throughout the argument we mostly see long speeches from Antigone while Ismene just speaks her point in one line. This shows us that Antigone was confident of her stand and was not going to back out of her plan but on the other hand Ismene was not interested with what Antigone said and thought she inferior and therefore should not break the law.
Likewise we are also aware of another family conflict between Creon and his son Haemon. Haemon who wanted to save Antigone but is opposed by his father Creon and I think this conflict foreshadows the death of Haemon in the play and also it brings pot the theme of love since Haemon goes against his father to save her life. The foreshadowing of Haemon’s death is brought out through the following quotes in Antigone,
“Creon: She will die before you marry her.
Haemon: If she must die, she will not die alone.” (Sophocles)
This shows us that Haemon was actually threatening his father, Creon that if he killed Antigone then he would kill himself. According to me the result of this conflict was actually the death of Antigone and eventually Haemon. This is shown when Creon says;
“Enough. No words. You’ll pay for taunting me.
Bring her out. Bring the woman here.
The bridegroom waits for her to stand beside him.
Here she will stand. To die. And we will let you watch.” (Sophocles)
I believe Creon at that point was angered by Haemon and decided to punish Antigone as soon as possible which eventually also led to the death of Haemon as a result of the conflict.
Furthermore there was another social conflict in Antigone which was the dispute between Antigone and Creon. According to me this conflict brought out theme of male chauvinism since Creon couldn’t admit that a woman had broken the law and was going against the men. Also I think this conflict brought out the fight between the laws made by Creon and the laws of god. This can be seen in the play when Antigone says;
“Your law. Not the sacred law. The gods.
That rule among the dead have issued no
Such proclamation. A man cannot erase
The laws unwritten. Cannot change the unchanging” (Sophocles)
Similarly there is a portrayal of a male chauvinist environment in The House of the Spirits which also brings out a social conflict. As we all know that Nivea used to hold rallies with other fellow women to fight for the right of women. The fact that it was a male chauvinist environment is be proved when Férula say in the book that, “I would like to have been born a man, so I could leave too” (Allende)
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The portrayal of this conflict (male chauvinism) in both books brings out two similar characters in both books and they are Creon and Esteban Trueba. They both believe that women are supposed to look after the house and raise children and should not be include in the so called matters of the men. The authors of both books bring out this conflict through the use of strong emotive language for example;
“Creon: If I must fall, a man will bring me down,
Let no one say, Creon gave his power to a woman” (Sophocles)
Sophocles brings out strong emotions of Creon through this quote and it shows us that Creon cannot accept defeat from a woman.
Their where also political conflicts in both books for example the use of in Antigone the brothers of Antigone died while fighting with each other for power. Also in The House of the Spirits we see a lot of attention drawn towards political conflicts.
In The House of the Spirits we see a political conflict between the Conservative party and the socialist. The writer seems to bring out the coup d’état that took place in Chile through this conflict. Political conflicts in The House of the Spirits begin to appear in the second chapter and soon take the central plot in the book. (The House of the Spirits Theme of Politics)
The political conflicts in the House of the Spirits were sometimes in the book brought out through the songs of Pedro Tercero for example the song of the hens getting united to defeat the fox which Pedro Tercero used to sing to tell people of Tres Marías. He used this song to explain to the people the power unity has;
“If the hens can overcome the fox, what about human beings?” (Allende)
I think the political conflicts in The House of the Spirits led to the family conflicts in the Trueba family because we see Jamie and Alba supporting the socialists and going against their father Esteban. This can be seen when Jamie says, “The socialists are going to win” (Allende) even after knowing that his father is in full support for the conservative party.
In the same way the thirst for power goes back many centuries and can also be seen in Sophocles’ book Antigone which starts with a background of two brothers dying for power. This brings out the theme of death from the beginning and somehow this foreshadows the tragic end to the lives of the characters in Antigone.
According to me another political dilemma was that Creon had to choose between his family members and his political duty. But it can also be argued that Creon was arrogant to accept his mistake and welcome the law of the gods but instead he did not do that and made it a man versus a woman quarrel. Creon’s arrogance can be shown when he says;
“Then join them there and love them both in hell.
No woman rules this kingdom while I live”
To sum up I think political and social conflicts both lead to families falling apart in both books and resumes the cycle of violence in both books which bring out the theme of death in both books.
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