This story was written as a final paper for my First Year Seminar
class, taught by the one-and-only Bill Sequin
. We had to incorporate everything we'd read, including the Oedipus Cycle
, the Dialogues of Plato
, and Dante's Inferno
. Rather than analytical, I decided to be fictional, and combine aspects from each of those tales into one story, as well as related things (i.e. the Allegory of the Cave
. For those who care, I got an A-
, the highest grade I achieved in Seminar
all semester, and so far the highest Seminar grade I've achieved all year.
Hell, the Forms, and Everything: An Antigone Story
One day in Thebes
was weeping by the river
. She had been without her father
for many years, now, and still mourned his passing. Her brothers were at war
as well, fighting for the throne
of Thebes. On this day, however, she was seen by the wise philosopher
. He slowly approached her.
Socrates: My dear Antigone, what troubles you on this fine day? A lady of your fairness should not be weeping except out of joy.
Antigone: Socrates, thank you for your kind words. It so happens that this is the anniversary of my father’s death. I miss him very dearly, and wish to see him again.
S: I can lead you there, child. I believe you are old enough to see certain things that a year, two years ago, I would have refused to let you witness.
And so Socrates led Antigone down a winding path
, leading to a cave
. Darkness enveloped them
as they continued further underground, finally approaching a dock
, lit softly by glowing candles
. A ferry
approached the dock, and Socrates helped Antigone onto the vessel before boarding himself. Handing a silver coin
to the ferryman, Socrates turned to Antigone.
A: Socrates, are we going to Hell? How can we make such a voyage? Neither of us has died.
S: Indeed, Antigone, we are. One day, I made a voyage to the oracle at Delphi. There, my fate was to be revealed. In the future, I will drink the poison hemlock, killing myself. Because, however, the Gods believe that with my orations I bring knowledge to the world, they have allowed me the honor of being able to cross the plane into the Underworld.
Antigone sat in silence. Socrates knew what she was thinking, that her father must have been condemned to Hell. Before he could say something, they reached the other side, and approached a large gate. A brutish
guard stood in front, guarding the way.
Guard: It is not your time yet, you cannot pass the gate.
Socrates: I do not wish to pass the gate; I merely wish to cross your path.
G: Are you blind, Socrates? I stand in front of a gate.
S: No, you merely stand in front of a token of a gate. It contains everything that you imagine of a gate, namely that it has doors, can be locked, and is used to keep the wanted in and the unwanted out. While it is the physical embodiment of a gate, the only real gate exists in your mind.
The guard stood, dumbfounded
. While he contemplated this, Antigone and Socrates slipped behind him. They found a clearing, surrounded by several houses, each simple yet comfortable. Antigone noticed that one bore Socrates’ name.
S: Though I have been sentenced to Hell, for some reason I will not be punished. Why the gods do not choose to send me to Heaven instead is a question I have asked many times. Soon, I hope, it shall be made clear to me.
They continued through a second gate. Here, Antigone saw people worshipping altars of multiple gods, from Athena
, and even a smaller shrine to Hades
S: These are the guilty repentant. They hope that through prayer to the gods, the gods will take pity on them and let them pass into Heaven.
A: Why are the worshippers of Hades crying?
S: They are crying because they cannot be saved. They have chosen to embrace a darker power in the hopes that darkness would be their salvation. As a result, they can no longer worship any other gods, and they are forced to worship Hades for all eternity. Often Hades will mock them by giving each a glimpse of the path to heaven, but replacing the path with a wall that cannot be scaled. Let this be a lesson to you, young Antigone. Never succumb to the promises that darkness offers, for it only offers in order to deceive and destroy.
Antigone took this advice in stride, as Socrates led her past countless shrine
s and altar
s, to yet another gate. This time, Antigone took the initiative, pushing the doors open and revealing a large port, through which a river flowed upstream. Socrates immediately noticed one of his fellow scholars.
Plato: Socrates, my liege. To what do I owe the pleasure?
S: I have taken it upon myself to show young Antigone her father. Antigone, this is a former student of mine. But Plato, what are you doing here?
P: The usual, Socrates.
A: The usual?
S: For those who strive to search for a deeper meaning in life, life itself never ends. Though initially they are processed in the underworld, they are almost as quickly sent on the return ferry up to Earth, where they start life anew. As long as they search for the deeper truth, as my fellow orator Plato is guilty of doing, they will not die until they have abandoned their mission or found the truth.
The two philosophers conversed, until Plato’s ferry was set to depart. He waved to Socrates and Antigone as the ferry began its ascent. Socrates noticed a smaller gate, and motioned for Antigone to open it. Upon crossing through the gateway, the two were in a large clearing. Several people were screaming
, as their faces were sliced off whole by demon
s. The demons would then proceed to cut the severed face in two. Whichever side looked uglier
would grow its’ matching half, and the ghoulish visage
would be reattached to the victim, only to have the whole process repeat again. Antigone was intrigued by a nearby man who chose to stay silent, despite the obvious pain he must have been experiencing.
Antigone: Have you no sense of feeling, sir?
Dante: No, my lady. You appear to be among the living, to what do we owe the pleasure of your kind?
A: I am on a journey, of sorts. Tell me your story, sir. How did you end up in this place?
D: My name is Dante Alighieri, and I have been interned in this pit of despair ever since my death.
A: But why, sir?
D: During my lifetime, I wrote many a tale. While my pen preached against the act of vengeance, the act itself was a revenge of sorts. It is because of this act that I am here, punished for my hypocrisy. Hypocrites speak with one face and act with another, and thus I am doomed to always wear the worse of the two.
Their conversation continued innocently for a while, until Socrates motioned for Antigone to join him. They stood at the next gate, slightly smaller than the last one, but noticeably so. Socrates unlocked the gate and opened it, revealing a dark room. Thousands of men and women were sitting in chairs, each screaming at another while in front of them; shadow
s were projected onto a wall.
A: Socrates, why are they screaming?
S: They are screaming because they cannot agree on what they see.
A: But they are only looking at shadows. How can they be arguing about what they see?
S: In life, they did not seek a deeper truth. Instead, they loafed around and commented on what they thought life was. Watching shadows, if you will. Nothing more. As punishment, they must look at shadows for all eternity. Look up, Antigone. Though it is only a hole in the ceiling, it shows the sky. It is through this that these prisoners realize what they have lost. No longer can they experience life, because they have waived that opportunity. Instead, they argue on the true nature of what they see. What they don’t understand is that they only see shadows, and that is truly a tragedy.
A: But why can’t they be told what they are actually seeing?
S: Many an enlightened man has tried, but has always been scorned. These poor souls almost seem to want to believe that the shadows are real. Come, Antigone, to the next room.
The two walked towards the next gate, but instead they were stopped by a peacock
. It was no normal peacock, but a large beast, with a sharp beak and feather
s so large that one could easily crush a man upon falling. Socrates held Antigone back, until it became apparent that the peacock was not guarding the gate as the chain
around its neck would appear to indicate. Rather, it was admiring its own plumage
. “A grim irony
” said Socrates as he and Antigone walked through the gate. Beautiful
men and woman were abounding in this area, but Antigone immediately noticed that something was wrong, accidentally stepping on a mirror
. She jumped up at the shock of breaking the mirror, until she realized that it had already been broken.
A: Socrates, why do they cry? They appear to have nothing to be sad about. And why do they not speak?
S: These are the prideful and vain. They cry because they cannot look upon their own faces and admire their beauty. They do not speak because their ears have been sewn shut with a needle and thread. Thus, they cannot speak of their accomplishments, for nobody, not even themselves, can hear what they say. I should think that you will learn more about this in time, Antigone.
A: Whatever do you mean, Socrates?
S: All will be revealed, in time.
A: What is that door, Socrates?
S: That is… well, I suppose you can see what is behind it. However, you must face this next circle alone. However, I will agree to meet you at the next gate.
With this, Socrates almost seemed to fade into darkness
, leaving Antigone alone. Behind her were the shrieks and screams of the vain, attempting to admire themselves through panes of shattered glass
, singing praises that nobody could hear. She gingerly opened the door, quickly stepping across the doorway and closing it. Antigone found herself in a dimly-lit room. Stuck into the ground at random points were rudimentary
stakes, and it seemed as though prisoners were chained to them. These prisoners were bleeding profusely from their ears, as a whirlwind of dust circled them, so quickly that the wind sheared their clothes off. The wind seemed to be making some sort of commotion, though Antigone could not tell what it was, if anything other than the grains striking against each other. She inspected one prisoner closer, and saw the dust take form of some sort. She jumped back; was that a face she saw in the dust? The face appeared to be screaming, and no sooner did the first face disappear than another appeared anew. Antigone stepped back, and noticed a prisoner who looked familiar. As she approached him, the “dust” receded, and Antigone recognized a long-lost brother
Eteoclês: My dear lost sister, what are you doing here?
A: I seek our father, Oedipus. I miss him very much, and I have been guided by a good friend.
E: I wish you luck, sister. Although I have only been here for a short period of time, I fear it will be much time before I can see my father.
A: What are you doing here, brother? You were given a full burial by Creon, one would think that the gods would smile upon you.
E: As would I. The drifts of dust you see floating around us are our ancestors, Antigone. They torment me with their screams; even you cannot ignore the blood flowing from my ears.
A: But why do they scream?
E: They scream because I have taken up the sword against my family. Despite the circumstances of power that our father Oedipus left behind, the gods frown heavily on family members betraying each other. You can see two empty poles next to me; they are reserved for Polyneicês, and my former leader, your brother, Creon. Soon they will occupy these torture devices, and soon our ancestors will scream into their ears as well.
A: Why is our father not here? He was guilty of causing this familial bloodshed.
E: He is guilty of greater crimes. You must not stay here for too long, sister. Despite your appearance as still being among the living, soon you will hear the scream of your ancestors, and unless you leave, you will suffer in the same fashion that I have and will continue to endure.
It was at this time that Socrates rejoined Antigone, as if out of nowhere. Looking to Socrates, Antigone turned back and said goodbye. As she turned and followed Socrates, she could swear she heard the voice of her grandparent
s, echoing in the wind
. The next door was merely a doorway
, so small that they had to duck down in order to pass it. Here was a small room filled with desks, each with a stack of parchment
and a never-ending pot of ink
, plus infinite quill
s. Antigone had seen the faces here many times as a child; they were the priest
s whom had governed Thebes. Between theirs and Oedipus’ inefficiencies, the city had gone to ruin. She saw one she knew.
Antigone: Dear priest, can you tell me where my father is?
Priest: Sweet Antigone, I have not seen him. We have all been expecting him, as it was he who inadvertently aided the downfall of Thebes. However, the desk we assume has been reserved for him remains empty, even after word of his death reached us.
A: What are you doing here?
P: As if to mock the downfall of Thebes, we must write copies of acts that would have saved the city if they had been passed, over and over again, for all eternity. If you wish to find your father, there is a tunnel on the far side of the chamber. Go to it.
A: Thank you, good priest.
P: May the gods protect you, Antigone.
She walked over to the hole in the wall, past the endless shuffling of papers. There she was once more met by Socrates.
S: I cannot join you this time, Antigone. You must make the journey alone.
Antigone took his warning
seriously, and stepped into the hole. She crawled through it for several hundred feet, until she reached the other side. In the sunlight stood a crossroad
s, with a carriage
standing still. Antigone saw a figure prone on the ground, and another figure standing over it. She quickly recognized the second figure as her father, Oedipus.
Oedipus: My child!
A: Father! I have found you at last. It seems that fortune has been kind to you, you have been granted a life in Greece.
O: I fear not, my child.
A: Father, who is that man? Is he… dead?
O: That man is your grandfather, Laos. As I admitted before my blinding and before my death, I killed him at this very crossing. And so I shall, for all eternity.
A: Why, father?
O: Antigone, I denied my fate. Though I knew what was to come, I ignored the sayings of the oracle and tried to change the will of the Gods. For that, I am being punished. I must live my life, over and over again. No matter what I do, nothing will be changed. I will always kill my father. I will always marry your grandmother. I will always be exiled from Thebes, and die in Colonus. Take my example as a warning, Antigone. Have faith in the gods, for, they are infallible. Accept your fate, and follow your heart. If fate casts you a cruel hand in this life, you will recieve retribution in the next. I denied fate, and look upon me, a broken man, sentenced to relive his worthless life.
A: Father, do not say that, you are a wise man, and you have accomplished much…
O: Be gone, Antigone. You must go back through whence you came. An old friend will be waiting for you on the other side. Goodbye, my child. I shall see you again, I assure you.
And with this, Antigone crawled back through the tunnel, crying softly the whole way. When she stepped out, it was not the room of desks and politicians that she saw, but instead she stood at the port where she, Socrates, and Plato had once stood. In her hands was a gold coin
, and she handed it to the ferryman as she began the slow ascent up to Earth
Node Your Homework. /msg dokool with comments.