A tragedy is a serious work of fiction that presents the downfall of its protagonist, who through some error in judgment, weakness in character, or twist of fate suffers crushing defeat or death. It also must involve incidents arousing pity and fear. The novel Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, and the Greek drama Antigone, by Sophocles, both have the woeful elements of a tragedy. In Antigone, the main character Antigone is of the cursed family of Oedipus, who unwittingly slew his father and married his mother, who bore him two sons and two daughters.
The Gods, enraged by this incestuous relationship, cursed Oedipus’ entire bloodline. In Of Mice and Men, two men struggle to make ends in the brutal times of the Great Depression, by traveling across America looking for jobs as ranch hands. Lennie, the larger of the two, has a mental disability, so George, Lennie’s best and only friend, takes care of him no matter how many times Lennie gets them into trouble. The Greek drama Antigone exemplifies the definition of a tragedy because not only does it arouse pity, it also shows the protagonist suffering crushing defeat and death.
The antagonist of the story, Creon, also the uncle of Antigone, decreed that no one could give his nephew Polynices death rites, on the grounds that a traitor cannot be granted a proper burial. In Greek culture, this is means that the soul will be trapped forever on Earth, never to be allowed access to the Underworld. This arouses pity for Polynices, because he has drift around Earth for all eternity, and is labeled a traitor unworthy of a burial by his own uncle.
Another tragic element of the story is when Antigone was sentenced to death by Creon, after she was seen giving her brother a burial. This scene is a pertinent example of tragedy because it shows the protagonist being punished for doing the right thing, merely because Creon wants to show his resolve. The last tragic element of the story occurs when Creon realizes the error of his ways, rushes to save Antigone, and finds her already dead. This shows how an error in judgment by Creon causes the protagonist, Antigone, to perish.
The novel Of Mice and Men is a tragedy because it has a tragic hero who, because of bad luck, has to murder his only friend. Lennie and George constantly have to look for new jobs because Lennie is always getting into trouble, and George has to rescue him from that trouble. One tragic incident in the story is when Lennie is accused of rape because he was innocently petting her dress, and got scared when she started yelling at him to let go, and held on tighter. This is a tragic event because it shows how a character is wronged because of hamartia.
Another tragic element of the story is when George is forced to either kill Lennie himself, or let Lennie suffer through the court system to inevitably be found guilty. This shows how the protagonist George, through misfortune and bad luck, has to commit an act that results in utter defeat and suffering. Another tragic element of the story is how Lennie’s fevered dream of owning rabbits and a quaint cottage will never come to fruition because he kills Curley’s wife. This represents an element of tragedy because through a flaw in his character, he can never realize his dream.
The drama Antigone is more of a tragedy because it has a character, who through an error in judgment, weakness of character and tragic twist of fate, suffers a crushing defeat, because everyone he holds dear dies because of him. In Of Mice and Men, Lennie’s tragic death was not caused by an error in judgment, but rather, it was a merciful death. Unlike the deaths of Haemon, Antigone, Eteocles, Polynices, and Eurydices, Lennie’s death could not have been avoided through better decisions, because Lennie was incapable of making better decisions. Therefore, Antigone is the more tragic of the two stories.