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In allows the audience to relate the

In Jean Anouilh’s version of the play, Antigone , the protagonist, Antigone, is interpreted as a member of the resistance to despotism that parallels the antifascist French resistance against the Nazi occupation. In the play, after Antigone’s brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, kill each other in a fight over who will be the next ruler of the city of Thebes, Antigone’s uncle, Creon, becomes king and pronounces Polyneices a traitor, thus denying him a proper burial. Antigone does not accept this and tries to bury Polyneices. Antigone refuses to obey the law and gets caught. Creon sentences her to die because of her act of defiance. Anouilh’s controversial play was performed in 1944 under Nazi-controlled Paris, so when Antigone sacrifices her life to defy the oppressive ruler Creon, Anouilh makes Antigone not only a heroine, but also a symbol for resistance. Anouilh loosely based his play on the original by Sophocles, written in 442 B.C. version, but applies it to a different context. Anouilh’s Antigone itself can be interpreted as a political allegory of Vichy France, and within the play, Anouilh uses anachronisms, allusions, similes and symbolism to show that resemblance between the play and the authoritarian government led by Marshal Pe?tain who participated in Jewish expulsions and turned France into a quasi-police state. On the surface, although the play is set in ancient Greece, Anouilh uses anachronisms such as coffee and nightclubs to create a disorienting effect to muddle the time period in which the play is taking place. The plain intent of these anachronisms is to plant in the minds of the audience the idea that the time of the action is very much the present, though not in any specifically identifiable time or place. For example, the nurse serves Antigone “hot coffee and tartines,” Polynices is described as fond of “racing with his cars” and of spending money “in the bars,” the guard takes Antigone prisoner “with handcuffs,” etc. Anouilh neither avoids the mention of the past, nor prevents the identification with the present, but by subtly blending the two, he achieves a convincing sense of timelessness and universality. This timelessness and universality allows the audience to relate the play to events such as the Nazi regime in France and the Vichy government in which Antigone becomes the face of the French resistance fighters who defied the pernicious components of the Nazi ideology: expansion, racial purity, power, and militarism. Anouilh illustrates Antigone as a freedom fighter who resists tyranny and has a more thoughtful, absolutist perspective on life where compromise is intolerable. Antigone shows perseverance throughout the entire play. After her first attempt to bury her brother, Antigone is exhausted and gets caught by Creon’s guards. However, this doesn’t stops her. When Antigone finds out about Creon’s weakness, she makes a declaration, “Poor Creon! My nails are broken, my fingers are bleeding, my arms are covered with the welts left by the paws of your guards—but I am a queen!” (Anouilh, p.39) Although her act of resistance to bury her brother may have been seen as a failure, she still calls herself a “queen,” demonstrating that she is feminine and is very much in control. In this manner, she continues to defy Creon by thr eatening his value and authority, as queens are equivalently commanding, authoritative, and powerful as kings. Her insistence and her desire to resist tyranny is beyond human logic which makes her a beautiful martyr. Furthermore, when Creon denies Polynices his burial right, Antigone knows that she has to do the right thing which is to fight for her brother’s basic right and resist against despotism even if it means to break the law, commit a crime, or even die by trying. During an argument between Antigone and Creon, Antigone states, “You disgust me, all of you, you and your happiness! And your life, that has to be loved at any price. You’re like dogs fawning on everyone they come across. With just little hope left every day- if you don’t expect too much… I don’t want to be sensible , and satisfied with a scrap! I want to be sure of having everything… Otherwise I prefer to die.” (Anouilh, p.46) Anouilh uses a simile to compare Creon and the Nazis to dogs who use flattery to get everything they want, while citizens remain with leftover scraps. Antigone made a moral choice and is willing to die for people like her brother to have their basic human rights. Similarly, the French resistance freedom fighters were also willing to die and commit crimes rather than to live in the horrendous conditions of Nazi-occupied France. Istva?n Dea?k, a historian at Columbia University historian, describes what it meant to be a French resistance fighter: “to resist meant to leave the legal path and to act as a criminal.” (Kaiser) For example, in order for resistance fighters to be able to print and distribute illegal newspapers to inform the public about specific resistance movements and the realities of the Vichy government, they had to steal strictly controlled printing paper and machines. They also had to forge or steal ration cards, banknotes, residence permits, and identity cards. Moreover, to fight the enemy, the resisters needed to seize arms from military garrisons or from rival resisters. The resistance fighters did anything to defy the tyrannical Vichy government and fight for their fellow citizens from the regime’s immoral acts. As Antigone is a symbol of the French Resistance in Nazi-controlled France, Anouilh portrays Creon as a representation of the head of the Vichy government. When Antigone’s sister, Ismene tries to persuade Antigone to obey Creon by not burying Polyneices, Antigone says “Creon orders that our brother rot and putrefy, and be mangled by dogs and bird of prey. That’s an offense against every decent human instinct; against the laws of God and Man.” (Anouilh, p.23) Creon is devious and cruel as he mindlessly denies Polynices his basic right and the divine law of a proper burial. Creon is compared to Marshal Petain, the President of Vichy France during World War 2, because of Petain’s unjust and atrocious treatment towards the innocent. In the four years when Petain led the Vichy government, 650, 000 civilian workers were deported to work in Germany, 75 000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz, 30, 000 French civilians were shot as hostages or members of the Resistance, and another 60,000 were sent to concentration camps. (Kaiser) These people include innocent men, women, children, and the elderly. At a much more severe and larger scale than Creon, Petain also committed crimes against humanity, and his horrific acts are an abomination against God. Anouilh further depicts Creon’s guards as the collaborators of the Vichy government. In the prologue, the omniscient Chorus addresses the audience and presents all of its players. The Chorus introduces the guards as “those three red-faced card players—they are the guards. One smells of garlic, another of beer; but they’re not a bad lot. They have wives they are afraid of, kids who are afraid of them; they’re bothered by the little day-to- day worries that beset us all. At the same time—they are policemen: eternally innocent, no matter what crimes are committed; eternally indifferent, for nothing that happens can matter to them. They are quite prepared to arrest anybody at all, including Creon himself, should the order be given by a new leader.” (Anouilh, p.5) Categorized as a trio, Anouilh portrays them as one foolish unit. With the mention that the Guards have wives and children, the audience sees that individually they are not bad people, but their job is to indifferently implement the commands and orders of their superiors. This indifference not only hardens them, also but makes them dangerously cruel as they are resistant to the effects of tragedy. The guards are a symbol in the matter that authority over the law determines enforcement of the law. The three Guardsmen are important to the political allegory to represent the fascist collaboration, the french collaborators, and the French police who betrayed their own citizens in support of the Nazis and the Vichy regime. For example, in July 1942, the French police who acted on the authority of the Vichy government, arrested nearly 13,000 Jews in Paris, including more than 4,000 children, and crowded them into an indoor bicycle racetrack in the stifling heat without water or proper sanitation. The final destination was Auschwitz. Thousands were gassed on arrival, and hardly any survived. Many more arrests and deportations followed. (Kaiser) The police, like the guardsmen, followed and enforced orders of their leaders and blindly committed horrifying crimes. Anouilh’s Antigone can be interpreted as a political allegory of France in the 1940s as the play has many correlations to the autocratic Vichy government. Anouilh incorporates anachronisms into his play to show that this play is very much current in order for the audience to make correlations between the play and recent events such as the Vichy regime in France. Since a possible setting is the rise of Nazi power around the end of World War II, Antigone’s perseverance and ultimate sacrifice of her own life is a powerful symbol for justice. Anouilh relates the characters to different groups who participated on different sides in the French Resistance. Creon represents Marshal Petain who committed crimes and sins, and the Guards are the French police or fascist collaborators who co-operated with the Nazis and the Vichy government. As Antigone dies for her cause, she voices the most powerful of personal and social politics as she symbolizes resistance to despotism. Her adamance to fight against tyranny represents the antifascist French resistance against the Nazi occupation. By cleverly writing his play with his judicious use of different literary devices, Anouilh is able to effectively make a comparison of the play to the French resistance and Vichy government, further enlightening the audience about the power of defiance and resistance against an oppressive authority. 


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