Sophocles’ plays and Elie Wiesel's holocaust are two works that are closely correlated. Sophocles is one of the ancient Greek tragedians whose play has endured the aspect of time. Born in around 496 BC, and a luminary force in Classical Athenian culture, his plays have ostensibly attracted lots of attention since most of them portrayed the real things that were actually going on in the society during those times. The themes that Sophocles wrote about are still relevant even in the contemporary world. Elie Wiesel, born in 1928, was a human activist who tried so much to reconcile his personal humiliation and the contempt of humanity (Sternlicht, 97).
In Oedipus the king, one of the Greek greatest play, fate and free will prevail. There is a great tension between fate and individual action. Although free choices are significant, one major factor that is responsible for Oedipus’s incest and other critical, devastating events of the play is fate. Oedipus makes choice which he is held responsible for and which wholly transmutes his life. His identification of his identity makes him influence his own life. Wiesel’s life was transformed in one night. He witnessed the kind of animosity that innocent people underwent during the holocaust night and swears never to forget them even if he lives as long as god. That particular night made him redefined his faith, personality and almost deprived him the urge to live in a world that he considered full of loathing and less of mercy. Wiesel had to re-evaluate the aspect of life and humanity in wide-ranging after experiencing the shattering holocaust night. Just as in the Greek plays where characters found it had to control their fate, Wiesel could also barely control his life after his father was ruthlessly killed. Just like in Sophocles’ plays, the atrocities in the holocaust did not at all please Wiesel and kept on conjecturing on the kind of events that were engraving the society. He survived the chilling experience by a whisker.
Wiesel witnessed human cruelty and human grace a factor that prevails in most of Sophocles’ plays. He came to realize the power of evil, and how difficult it was to understand the nature of God. The systematic murder of the people displayed a great level of immorality a factor that most of Sophocles’ plays tries to condemn and bring it to an end in the society. Wiesel too convicts the systematic killing of Nazis simply because they were considered to be from a community that needed to be ousted from the society (Sternlicht, 76).
Sophocles’ plays reflected the democratic emphasis on the individual and the Athenian feeling of being obliged to define oneself. Sophocles was largely against dictatorship. He was for the idea that one person does not have the ability to effectively rule a country and two minds are better than one implying that democracy will actually result in the making of better decisions than those made by dictators. He himself did not seek military or political positions but was out to expose and explore the kind of politics that were being practiced in the Athenian community. The plays emphasizes that a dictators make decisions for their own advantage whereas democracy advocates for the making of decisions for the benefit of the people (Sophocles & Moses, 112). Wiesel wonders how mistaken the government was to organize and execute the murder of the Nazis. He ascertains that if a person is suffering from pain or despair and we pretend not to know it or do not want to know about it and take remedial actions, then something is wrong with the world.
Additionally, most of Sophocles’ plays depict the kind of torture and atrocities based on religious and racial factors that people underwent during the 490 BC Battle of Marathon, a conflict that emanated from Persia’s attempt to subdue Greece. This is closely related to Wiesel’s holocaust that depicts the divisive politics and discriminations that were prevalent in the years prior and during the 2nd world war (Bard, 98).
Sophocles’ plays such as Oedipus Rex and The Oresteia illustrates the importance of families, its relations and the challenges that the family as an institution is going through (Sophocles & Moses, 132). It presents good family relations as an important factor that can determine the fate of an individual. Wiesel’s holocaust experience depicts the suffering that he goes through after his father, mother and sisters were mercilessly killed even though in reality they were innocent. He blames the killing of his relatives and the other people on the delayed response by humanitarian agencies to unshackle them the innocent lives.
Memory and the past have a complex impact on characters in Sophocles’ plays. A message that is clear is that delving too far into the past is dangerous and self-injuring. After witnessing the holocaust, Wiesel suffered a great loss but decided to forego and continue with life though he knew life would never be the same in a wicked world (Bard, 195).
As elucidated above, there are so many connections that can be drawn between Wiesel's holocaust experience and the Greek plays. Memory and past, politics, the issue of moral degeneration are dominant.
Bard, Mitchell G. The Holocaust. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 2001. Print.
Sophocles, R C. Jebb, and Moses Hadas. The Complete Plays of Sophocles. Toronto: Bantam Books, 1967. Print.
Sternlicht, Sanford V. Student Companion to Elie Wiesel. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2003. Print.