Every story has something to share with the audience, something that is able to make them feel part of the story. Its purpose is to make the reader feel what the protagonist is feeling. Generally, in literature, the protagonist is a good guy. In this case, it is about tragedies and tragic heroes, but how can we identify a tragic hero? Is it someone who can fly? Is it a person who can save the world? Is it someone who dies as a hero? In order to answer these questions it is important to feel what the tragic hero is going through the play.
If the readers can understand and relate to the emotional turmoil experienced by the main tragic character, it means that they are experiencing the wonderful emotional power of tragedy. Among others, the two plays that follow this concept of tragedy are ̈Antigone ̈ by the Greek author, Sophocles, and ̈Fences ̈ by August Wilson. In order to establish a character as a tragic hero, an author has to place him/her in a high authority position, endow him/her with great affection to family, curse him/her with hamartia and have them perish as a result of their flawed character, which are the characteristics that define Sophocles’s Antigone and Wilson ́s Troy Maxson.
The first characteristic that defines Antigone as a tragic hero is her high authority status. A high authority person is someone superior to others, who is able to make his/her own decisions without asking advice. Starting with the character Antigone, the author illustrates her as a member of the royalty and the niece of a King named Creon. In the play, the author mentions a chorus, who regards Antigone as a superior women. The people from the kingdom show the respect that Antigone deserves by being a daughter of the royalty. In the play, the author mentions that the Chorus says to Antigone ̈Surely you carry fame with you and praise, as you move to the deep home of the dead ̈ (820).
This quote reflects the Chorus ́ admiration and the respect they have for Antigone at all moment till her death. During the play, the Chorus shows care and love to Antigone even if she disobeys the human law. They always have an affection to Antigone during the play. The article titled ̈On Respect, Authority, and Neutrality: A Response ̈ by Joseph Raz, mentions that, ̈So as far as I know, it is pretty universal that care and respect are expressed in protecting and preserving, while disrespect is in indifference to preservation, or even a desire to destroy ̈ (284). Raz ́s quote relates to the fact that the Chorus still shows respect to Antigone at all times till her death. Antigone dies in a tragic way, but dies as an authoritative figure, which is representative for her tragic hero character.
The second characteristic that defines Antigone as a tragic hero is the great affection that she has towards her family. Her character shows that the meaning of family is first. In Sophocles ́ play, Antigone wants to bury her brother and she would do anything in order to have her brother’s body rest in peace even if she has to violate the king’s law. At the beginning of the play, Antigone tells her sister Ismene her purpose of burying their brother ́s body. Ismene told her to stay away from that crazy and risky idea, but Antigone ́s loyal and affection to his brother was stronger than anything or anyone. Antigone disobeys the human law and consequently suffers the consequences, but she also makes an ethical decision by burying her brother ́s body. In this act, Antigone demonstrates her tragic hero characteristic, which is her affection towards her family.
The last two characteristics that define Antigone as a tragic hero is the concept of hamartia and the way she perishes as a result of her tragically flawed character. In Sophocles ́ play, the fatal flaws that cause Antigone’s hamartia are her affection and her loyalty for her brother, which urge her to bury her brother’s body and to disobey the king ́s law.
Later on, King Creon locks Antigone in prison for her disobedience, and takes him a long time to release her from prison. Unfortunately, by that time Antigone has hanged herself and her fiance, Haemon, killed himself after finding out about Antigone’s death. After Haemon’s mother realizes what has happened she also kills herself, but without failing to curse King Creon for his hatred and narrow-mindedness with regards to Antigone. In his article, “To Die with Others,” Alphonso Lingis states that ̈hatred is obsessive, in hatred our life is interlocked with another ́s life. Hatred is a bond with another ́s life that aims to produce his death ̈ (109). This quote highlights the idea that King Creon ́s hatred and narrow-mindedness is the direct cause of Antigone’s death. Unfortunately, it is also Antigone’s hamartia that leads to her perish, which defines her character as a tragic hero.
The first characteristic that defines Troy Maxson from August Wilson’s play called “̈Fences” as a tragic hero is his high authority status. In this play, the tragic hero possesses a different high authority status than Antigone. Here the author depicts Troy as a man who supports his family, but plays the role of an authoritative figure in their lives. In the play, Troy is highly strict with his son, Cory, and makes the decisions for him in order to provide good parenting. Troy wants his son to have a job and earn money instead of wasting his time playing football. Troy is an adolescent who wants to participate in the college’s football team in order to reach his passionate goal and to demonstrate his amazing capabilities to his father. On the other hand, Troy Maxson does not want his son to be involved in these unrealistic dreams. Instead, he wants Cory to succeed in life by having a job. While Cory ́s mother tries to approach Troy in order to make him understand his son ́s goals, Troy says to her wife: ̈I don’t want him to be like me, I want him to move as far as he can get ̈ (Scene 3).
In these lines, Troy postures an authoritative position to his wife and his son Cory to make them understand that they have to do what he says. Troy Maxson only wants the best for his family. In addition, Troy says that African American people cannot persuade these kinds of dreams because of the system of discrimination in America. According to the book ̈Perspective on African American and other Americans of Color ̈ by Joe Feagin and Eileen O’Brien, ̈several research studies have shown that black Americans have a greater desire for post-secondary education than whites, although they do recognize the existence of racial barriers and thus have lower expectations than whites in regard to securing that education ̈ (106). This quote refers to the difficulties that African American people confront by securing their education. This is the reason why Troy has a strict parenting approach with his son Cory. In order to ensure a hopeful future for Cory, the author designs Troy as an authoritative figure.
The second characteristic that defines Troy Maxson as a tragic hero is the great affection that he has towards his family. Troy demonstrates his caring by the word responsibility. Troy Maxson is a strict father, but he also wants the best for his family. He has a job, he supports the family financially and does not have any addictions. He is responsible for his son’s actions and goals, and is in watch of Cory ́s decisions in life. In his article, “The Good Father: African American Fathers Who Positively Influence the Educational Outcomes of Their Children,” Theodore Ransaw mentions that ̈African American men are also more likely to be involved in teaching their children how to deal with economic conditions by stressing cultural capital as a resource to combat discrimination ̈ (4). In this play, discrimination is involved and Troy Maxson shows caring and responsibility for his son Cory in this respect. He might not be the best father of the world, but his tragic hero character shows his concealed affection to his family in order to protect them from discrimination and secure a better future.
The last two characteristics that defines Troy Maxson as a tragic hero is the concept of hamartia and perish as a result of his flawed character. In Wilson ́s play, the fatal flaws that cause Troy ́s hamartia is his strict parenting towards his son Cory and his infidelity to his wife Rose. In the play, Cory hates his father Troy because he does not let him pursue his dream of playing football. Troy also hurts his wife Rose, due to the fact that he cheated on her with another woman. Troy Maxson’s bad decisions leads him to an emotional downfall with his family. All that guiltiness might been the cause of his heart attack at the end of the play. Being the responsible for these bad decisions can been a big pressure for him and also made him overthink to much, causing him a heart attack. According to the book ̈Fear, Stress and Trauma: Helping Children Cope ̈ by Edward H. Robinson, Joseph C. Rotter and Sandra L. Robinson, ̈stress isn ́t just a catchall complaint, it’s being linked to heart disease, immune deficiency and memory loss. The worst part, is we conflict it ourselves ̈ (21). This quote highlights the idea that Troy Maxson ́s stress is a factor that leaded him to a heart disease. Unfortunately, it is also Troy Maxson ́s hamartia that leads to his perish, which defines his character as a tragic hero.
In conclusion the two plays that follow the concept of tragedy are ̈Antigone ̈ by the Greek author, Sophocles, and ̈Fences ̈ by August Wilson. Both authors describe how a tragic hero ́s character is identified and also make the reader feel what the protagonist is feeling.