Hubris In Antigone: Parallels In Joan Of Arc And American Gangster

The Allure of Hubris and Authority

Hubris is the reason for the fall of Creon in Antigone, the Catholic Church in The Passion of Joan of Arc, and Frank Lucas in American Gangster. The illusion of being important and worshipped is so seductive that those characters become blind. These antagonists consider themselves the authority and feel entitled to make any decisions, even if those decisions prove to be wrong. Therefore, they start exercising their power by intimidating those who don’t fully obey them. However, enforcing their power doesn’t make them respected. Rather, it results in just the opposite. The characters who rise against them prove to be true authorities at their expense, and those antagonists face the fall because of their narcissistic abuse of the power that comes with their authority.

Creon’s Downfall in Antigone

Antigone, as her name indicates, “Going against,” fights against the tyrant Creon, who accidentally finds himself in power and, in his fear, attempts to rule the Thebes. Creon believes that as a king, he is equal to the gods and becomes omnipotent. As a result, his hubris takes over, and Creon stops respecting gods and anyone who disagrees with him: “This is my command, and you can see the wisdom behind it.” This narcissistic form of behavior is reflected by all world-famous dictators whose narcissism ruined not just their lives but the lives of millions of people and their country. However, by nature, the people need a leader, and the one who speaks the loudest, demonstrates decision-making, even the wrong kind, and presses the execution of his orders becomes followed and admired by the people. History offers many examples of dictators, such as Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini, who establish their power of authority once they appeal to the hubris of the crowd.

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The crowd confuses their narcissism with the real authority and blindly admires and follows them. However, as some people disagree with the decisions of those dictators, those dictators threaten anybody who is of a different opinion with death and continue to force their decisions on the people, no matter the consequences. The same happens in Antigone when Creon threatens Antigone with death after she attempts to bury her brother. This act, especially the act of a woman, immensely angers Creon, who sees Antigone undermining his authority. Suddenly, Creon becomes scared that a woman can take over the kingdom. This fear blinds his mind, and he does not listen to anyone until it is too late. Ironically, the role of a king becomes unimportant compared to the deed of Antigone. Creon’s hubris becomes the demise of his family.

Joan of Arc’s Defiance

Joan of Arc, similarly, fights against the human authorities. Joan is a young woman who defies the authority of the Catholic Church by pursuing her obedience to God. The Catholic Church blames her for disrespecting the authority of God by communicating directly with God. This act makes the authority of the church look obsolete to the catholic believers; therefore, the representatives of the Catholic Church try to force Joan to admit that she is communicating with the devil because communication with God is possible only through the church. This obvious power game by human authorities is a pure manipulation of Joan to keep their status even though Joan adheres to the real authority. Further, Joan is a threat to the authority of men by wearing a man’s clothes, suggesting she is equal to men.

Modern Interpretation in American Gangster

The question of equality is highly discussed in the movie American Gangster. Frank Lucas is a successful black businessman who overtakes white Sicilians in the heroin business in New York City. Frank becomes powerful and, because of this, a well-respected authority in Harlem and in his family. He demonstrates his untouchable status when he shoots a Sicilian in the middle of the street and returns to the table to continue with his breakfast with his brothers at the local diner. Frank’s strong authority comes from being his own boss, and he teaches this philosophy to his brothers. However, even though he is a respectful figure, he obeys and adheres to the higher authorities, the discipline, and the order. Frank is successful while he keeps his ego under control. Once he lets his ego take over, his life leads to a sure end, like Creon’s life.

No matter that Frank is a hugely successful authority in this community, he is not an example of moral authority. On the other side, an honest, unsuccessful policeman, Richie Roberts, from unglamorous New Jersey, who, similarly like Antigone and Joan, has to defy those he belongs to in order to follow a moral authority that is considered more of a human authority. Richie has declared his authority, not just to the police department and to the general public when he uncovers and arrests Frank, but also to Frank himself when he sways Frank on his side and convinces him to cooperate in cleaning up the streets of New York from the corrupt cops.

In modern times, there is an unclear separation between the good and bad because the gangster seems to have a higher moral code than the entire New York City Police Department. The desire for a better car or a bigger home is driven by the ego, and in the end, this desire is the fatal fall as it happens to Frank and all corrupt cops. Therefore, overcoming the hubris becomes vital to establishing and maintaining the authority.

Questioning Authority in Today’s Era

The above-referenced three works reflect the never-ending human dilemma of choosing between right and wrong and of challenging moral authority against human authority. This question is relevant today because of the era in which we question and challenge our authorities. Similarly, like Antigone questioned the orders of Creon, we question the orders of the President of the United States. Similarly, like Joan in The Passion of Joan of Arc, who questioned the intentions and requests of the church, we question why we need to donate more money to the church.

Similarly, Richie Roberts in The American Gangster questioned the corruption and disobedience of law in the New York Police Department. We have the same question on a much larger scale, including corruption in politics and law enforcement. These works make us think of our values and obedience to the authorities and the higher power that is a driving force behind our behavior. They also teach us to overcome our hubris and not confuse it with authority and real power.

References

  1. Sophocles. (442 BC). Antigone. (Translated by E.F. Watling). Penguin Classics.
  2. Dreyer, C. T. (Director). (1928). The Passion of Joan of Arc. Société générale des films.
  3. Scott, R. (Director). (2007). American Gangster. Universal Pictures.

Prometheus And Frankenstein Similarities: Overreachers Of Their Time

The Mythological Foundations of Prometheus and Frankenstein

Frankenstein as the Modern Prometheus

Myths are stories that are created and told by different individuals. They are often revised and can be about specific versions of traditional stories. In classical mythology, Prometheus is known to be the creator of mankind. In some classics, such as Theogony and in Works & Days, Prometheus is known to be a trickster figure and known for stealing fire and giving it to mankind. Zeus tried to prevent men from having power, and Prometheus went and stole it and gave it to the humans, which he then was punished for. One example of the Prometheus myth is by Mary Shelley, and she has referenced this myth in her work Frankenstein.

Victor Frankenstein studied natural philosophy and chemistry and had the desire to devote himself to a science that he believed was his natural talent. Frankenstein was very intelligent. He had one of the greatest minds and had a goal in his future to accomplish. His colleagues and professors stated that he “outstripped them all. In relation to this, Prometheus was a very clever trickster titan and was able to outwit Zeus, one of the gods who could not be tricked. Prometheus is described as a figure of intelligence and crafty.

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Frankenstein himself felt that he needed to “learn the secrets of heaven and earth” and that the world to him “was a secret in which he desired to divine,” just like Prometheus, who had the desire to take a gift from Zeus regardless of the situation’s outcome. Frankenstein desires to learn the secrets of the world, which leads him to expand the possibilities for humans. However, just like Prometheus, going beyond, regardless of the possibilities, results in consequences for both of them.

The Punishments and Consequences of Overreaching

Prometheus and Frankenstein were both punished for the creations that they had discovered. Prometheus molded the first human beings with clay and water, while Frankenstein found the power to “successfully collect and arrange the materials” within his hands. Both of them gave their creations a piece of themselves so they were able to have the ability to give life. As Prometheus steals fire, he teaches mankind how to use their gift, and this is how he became to be associated with science.

Frankenstein utilized science in creating his creature, which also associates himself with science like Prometheus. Prometheus had given a piece of himself in creating them in the image of gods, and Frankenstein gave his qualities and character to his creature. Frankenstein stated that he wanted to “infuse a spark,” and this can possibly be a reference to the language Prometheus might use to refer to the fire he gave to humanity. Once Frankenstein is finished, Shelley continues to reference Prometheus through the punishment that he suffers. Frankenstein became ill, and his creature terrified him and brought him such emotions that he could not describe.

References

  1. Hesiod. (c. 700 BCE). Theogony.
  2. Hesiod. (c. 700 BCE). Works & Days.
  3. Shelley, M. (1818). Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. London: Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones.

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