Narrative Techniques in "Antigone"
In Sophocles’ “Antigone,” King Creon has forbidden all burials for enemies of the state upon penalty of death, but Antigone, his strong-willed niece, defies the decree. Calling Creon’s law unjust, Antigone insists on obeying only the laws of the gods and buries her brother. Narrative techniques are strategies that the writer uses to tell the story. The main narrative techniques of any story, including Antigone, are point of view, narration, speech and tense.
Point of View
The point of view of a story identifies who is telling the story. In general, there are three ways of telling a story. First-person point of view presents the story from the narrator’s perspective, second-person point of view presents the story from the reader’s perspective, and third-person point of view presents the story from an outsider’s perspective. “Antigone” is a play that is presented from the third-person point of view. The reader acts like an audience member who watches the play unfold without intimate access to a character’s first-person point of view.
Narration identifies who the narrator of a story is speaking to. In general, there are two types of narration: direct and indirect. In direct narration, the narrator talks directly to the reader; in indirect narration, the narrator speaks to an unknown or absent audience. Because “Antigone” is a play presented from the third-person point of view, there is no narrator who speaks directly to the reader. Thus, the narration is indirect.
Speech is a narrative technique which tells the reader how the narrator and the characters of the story speak. In general, there are three types of speech: direct, indirect and free indirect. Direct speech allows the characters to speak themselves and presents their words in quotations or dialogue. Indirect speech summarizes what the characters say, and free indirect speech allows the narrator to tell the reader a character’s thoughts using third-person limited narration. “Antigone” uses a combination of direct and reported speech. Sometimes, the reader sees the characters speak to each other directly without summarization (direct speech), and other times, the reader is only given access to a summary of what was said (reported speech). For example, the messenger who appears at the end of story and tells the audience what happened in the cave uses reported speech.
Tense is a narrative technique that tells when the events of the story occur. In general, there are three types of tense: past, present and future. Past tense relays events that have already happened, present tense relays the events as they are happening, and future tense relays events that have not yet happened. “Antigone” is told using present tense. Because it is a play, the reader is given access to the events of the story as they are unfolding.
Kate Prudchenko has been a writer and editor for five years, publishing peer-reviewed articles, essays, and book chapters in a variety of publications including Immersive Environments: Future Trends in Education and Contemporary Literary Review India. She has a BA and MS in Mathematics, MA in English/Writing, and is completing a PhD in Education.