Today, we read the "Before the Law" parable by Franz Kafka. I remembered reading this in Kafka's full length novel, The Trial. However, I was not sure if I totally absorbed its meaning the first time around. In the context of such a straightforward book, it surprised me that something so symbolic was juxtaposed within it. Nevertheless, reading it now, isolated from the rest of the book, I not only was able to connect its purpose in The Trial, but in Antigone as well.
The parable is the story of a man who approaches the door to the law, guarded by a stark doorkeeper. The man pleads to enter and is told that he may, but not right now. So the man waits for what turn into years. He attempts to bribe the doorkeeper and chat with him, yet the doorkeeper only continues saying the man is not to go in at the moment. Finally, the man has become old and close to his death. As his vision leaves him, he only sees the law more radiantly. His thoughts culminate into one final questions for the doorkeeper, "Everyone strives to reach the Law...so how does it happen that for all these many years no one but myself has ever begged for admittance?" and the doorkeeper responds by telling him that this door was here only for the man, and the doorkeeper finishes by shutting the door as the man dies.
Though I had a sort of epiphany regarding The Trial, it was all the more amazing that I connected it with Antigone. This parable illustrates that if you practice submission to the law absolutely, nothing will ever change. If the man at the door were Antigone, he would've strode right past the doorkeeper and into the law. Though she is sentenced and dies as a result, it makes Kreon have a change of heart. Such an immovable character begins to beg for forgiveness. He never would have considered the effect his actions have on those around him had Antigone never defied him. Kreon would remain in his old, traditional ways. He would still believe that as king, he does not need to consider the needs of the many. Yes, she received punishment for entering the law, but it was important that she did so.
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