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The main theme concerns human happiness and its price. In her search for ideal and spiritual truth in burying Polynices and defying the law, Antigone rejects the world's formula for obedience and happiness. She refuses conventional happiness as it is too human, a word unworthy of her heroic sacrifice and idealism. She curses Creon's "filthy happiness" of earthly love and material comfort.
Determinism, or fate, crushes people in tragic circumstances over which they have no control. Antigone is fated to follow in the footsteps of her doomed father. Her father, Oedipus, the King of Thebes, could not escape the fate that the oracle predicted for him; he was destined to kill his father (Laius) and marry his mother (Jocasta). Antigone is the product of that ill-fated union between Oedipus and Jocasta. Antigone is fated to obey the divine law, burying her brother, and spurn the human law of Creon, regardless of the consequences.
The theme of social status is shown in characters like the guards, living in their narrow world of work, cards, drinking, and promotion. They remain untouched by heroic issues of truth and happiness, and their lives are defined by their routine duties as policemen and their small time pleasures, like playing cards.
The predominant mood of the play is dismal. A cloud of gloom hangs over everything as the Chorus predicts Antigone's death, and a premonition of inevitable tragedy grips the audience from the opening scene. The ash-gray dawn in which Antigone steals outside to bury Polynices is a somber world without color.
A mood of calm prevails as Antigone tells Ismene that she is definitely going to fulfill her sacred duty of burying Polynices. She does not share Ismene's fear of the law, nor does she fear Creon as a king and man of the state. In contrast, a romantic mood of precious tenderness marks the meeting of the young lovers, Haemon and Antigone, but Antigone's spirit cannot be weakened by earthly love. She is too pure and heroic.
Creon's shock and fear at the guard's news that the edict has been violated is compounded when he realizes that the criminal is Antigone. In their debate, Creon and Antigone clash strongly, and the mood conveys both pain and joy. The king does not want to impose the penalty on Antigone and painfully issues her punishment when she refuses to come to terms with him. There is a sense of quiet rejoicing in Antigone's refusal to yield to Creon's despotic will; but it quickly turns to despair when Haemon fails to convince Creon to withdraw his cruel and inhuman penalty and when he discovers that Antigone has committed suicide. As the messenger brings news of the multiple deaths of Antigone, Haemon, and Eurydice, a pall of gloom envelopes the audience.