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Paul Nguyen

Ms. Angus

AP Literature

22 October, 2017

Word Count: 850

2. ​“And, after all, our surroundings influence our lives and characters as much as fate, destiny

or any supernatural agency.” --Pauline Hopkins, Contending Forces

Choose work of prose fiction in which cultural, physical, or geographical surroundings

shape psychological or moral traits in a character. Then write a well-organized essay in

which you analyze​ how surroundings affect this character ​and ​illuminate the meaning of

the work as a whole.


A character’s surroundings or immediate environment undoubtedly possesses a great deal

of influence over their disposition.​ The classical play, ​Antigone, ​written​ ​by renowned playwright

Sophocles, Antigone resides in the ancient city of Thebes around 406-405 B.C.; an era of

extreme veneration for the Greek gods and patriarchal rule. Around the 5th century B.C.,

coming into Antigone’s lifetime; patriarchy and war serve as social norms in Thebes. Patriarchy,

in the form of King Creon, plays a necessary role in influencing Antigone’s character because of

the oppression begrudged upon her, which in turn built her rebellious personality and relentless

will to defy the law of man. War contributes to Antigone’s disposition significantly because she

believed honor must be given to all soldiers who die in battle. Familial ties possess an enormous
role in developing Antigone’s loyalty and love towards Polyneices. Antigone’s character

development depends solely on her physical and geographical surroundings.

Being raised in a patriarchal dominated society, ​Antigone like all other women in this era

were oppressed and suppressed from speaking or acting freely as they wanted to. ​ During the

first scene of ​Antigone, ​Ismene pleads, “We are only women, We cannot fight with men,

Antigone!” (​Antigone​ I. 1. 46-47), ingloriously reminding Antigone of their identity hoping to

entice her into retracting her plan, but instead her rebellious attitude exceeds this idea entirely

and encourages her to ploy deeper into the idea of burying Polyneices. In the second scene

Antigone proclaims “The immortal unrecorded laws of God, They are not merely now: they

were, and shall be, operative forever, beyond man utterly” (I. 2. 61-64), firmly including all

women as equals to men under the same universal laws of the gods. Likewise, Antigone views

men as the opposite of all-mighty and powerful, having limitations to their powers and being

under the same equal status with women before the gods as well. Furthermore, Antigone

projects her feelings towards patriarchal rule when she bitterly mutters to Creon, “Ah the good

fortune of kings, Licensed to say and do whatever they please!” (I. 2. 102-103), projecting her

rebellious attitude to stem from her disdain towards patriarchy. ​Antigone embodies feminism in

this era, contributing to the underlying theme of feminism for the entire play.

Being amidst an era of constant war, ​Antigone constantly experiences the valiance and

bravery of soldiers, as well as death.​ In ​Antigone, ​war breaks out amongst two of Antigone’s

brothers and they both ultimately kill one another, with Eteocles as the only one properly buried

while Polyneices’s deceased body remains unfairly rotting without proper burial rites. When

confronting Creon, Antigone argues, “Nevertheless, there are honors due all the dead.” (​Antigone
I. 2. 113) constantly surrounded by warfare, Antigone understands the circumstances of a

soldier’s duty and morally believes in honor for “all the dead”. Living in a world constantly

surrounded by death, Antigone emphasizes “It is my nature to join in love, not hate.” (I. 2. 118),

to display her developed sympathy for Polyneices through accepting the death penalty in order to

bury him. Daringly, Antigone points out in scene II, “All these men here would praise me, Were

their lips not frozen shut with fear of you” (I. 2. 99-100), because war affects every citizen of

Thebes, Antigone realizes that her belief applies to everyone in Thebes as well. Antigone

effectively demonstrates her feminist attitude while speaking up against Creon, proving her

fearlessness while staying true to her morals. War affects character development through

witnessing the bravery of people and honoring the value of life.

​Familial ties possess a great deal of influence over any individual’s character and

disposition. ​ Antigone was born into royalty as a princess and suffered many familial

complications such as the tragedy of Oedipus and the death of her two brothers, Eteocles and

Polyneices. During the Prologue, Antigone professes, “ But I will bury him; and if I must die..”

(I. Prologue. 55), demonstrating the power of familial love and the impact it possesses over

Antigone’s character, revealing her selflessness and loyalty to her family despite the mortal

consequences to come. When Creon debases Polyneices as a Traitor during scene II, Antigone

contends, “ His own brother, traitor or not, and equal in blood.” (I. 2. 111), portraying her

genuine and compassionate character through love for her family, overlooking Polyneices’s

betrayal and instead pushes for his soul to rest in peace. In another similar instance during scene

II, Antigone states, “This death of mine, Is of no importance, but if I had left my brother Lying

in death unburied, I should have suffered” (I. 2. 69-71), announcing her death as a miniscule
price to pay in exchange to properly bury her brother, illuminating the meaning of loyalty

throughout ​Antigone​ and the pricelessness of that trait.

Antigone’s character development relies on her surroundings which evoke compassion,

loyalty, and familial affection within her. ​ These characteristics also play a role in illuminating

underlying meanings of ​Antigone​, unyielding loyalty and love wins in the face of any obstacle

and feminism embodying free-will and females possessing equal power to men to accomplish