Antigone and The Watch: A Comparison: Background information when reading The Watch

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Watch

A Novel

by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya

The Watch by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 2012, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2013, 304 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Mark James

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Antigone and The Watch: A Comparison

Print Review

The Greek classic, Antigone (written by Sophocles around 440 BC, based on the older Theban legend), serves as the basis for the modern-day Afghan war story, The Watch. Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya makes no attempt to hide the fact and even invites comparisons, titling two chapters "Antigone" and "Ismene" after the two sisters in the tragedy. A lieutenant in the story lends the classic text to his captain, urging him to read it because "it's about as cogent an analysis as anything you'll find about where we are today." But how alike are the two works?

Antigone by Frederic Leighton, 1882 Antigone and her siblings are the offspring of Oedipus and his mother/wife, Jocasta. Antigone's brothers take opposing sides in a power struggle over the throne of Thebes and kill each other, "each smitten by the other, each stained with a brother's blood." Creon, who ascends the throne after the death of Antigone's brothers, is also her uncle. Creon orders his dead ally buried, "crowned with every rite that follows the noblest dead to their rest." The brother who opposed him is left on the battlefield for everyone to see, "that none shall grace him with sepulture or lament, but leave him unburied, a corpse for birds and dogs to eat, a ghastly sight of shame." Creon forbids anyone to bury him under penalty of death. Antigone, who is betrothed to Creon's son, decides to bury her brother anyway. The king then has her sealed in a cave so she will starve, absolving him of direct responsibility for her death. Creon's son then takes his life in despair.

painting of Antigone in front of the dead Polyneices by Nikiforos Lytras The parallels between the classic Antigone and Roy-Bhattacharya's The Watch are plain to see, though some similarities are metaphorical, while others are actual. Nizam's dead brother is left to be used by the "birds and dogs" of the government, and though Nizam is not sentenced to death, her actions could be construed as a de facto death sentence. Roy-Bhattacharya titles Nizam's narrative "Antigone," and that of the army's Tajik interpreter, Masood, "Ismene," the name of Antigone's sister. Masood understands Nizam's quest to recover her brother's body. However, he tries to reason with her to abandon her demands, just as Ismene tries to convince Antigone of her foolhardiness.

The structural similarities of the two tales also bear scrutiny. Antigone is a play and is confined to a particular framework; there is no narrator, the audience is aware of the characters' thoughts only through their voices. Roy-Bhattacharya uses the first-person narration of multiple characters to create a similar structure in his prose. However, his use of dream sequences allows us to enter the soldiers' psyches in a way that Sophocles' work cannot. Sophocles uses "choruses" to provide background on the drama and to serve as a pseudo-conscience for Creon and his subjects.

If you're interested in comparing the two texts for yourself, check out the free, online edition of Sophocles' Antigone at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology classics website, and then click here to read an excerpt of The Watch at BookBrowse.

Article by Mark James

This article was originally published in June 2012, and has been updated for the March 2013 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Islamic Enlightenment
    The Islamic Enlightenment
    by Christopher de Bellaigue
    In this comprehensive and well-researched history, de Bellaigue examines the evolution of Islamic ...
  • Book Jacket: The Leavers
    The Leavers
    by Lisa Ko
    The day before Deming Guo saw his mother for the last time, she surprised him at school. A navy blue...
  • Book Jacket: Wonderful Feels Like This
    Wonderful Feels Like This
    by Sara Lovestam
    High school is hard; or perhaps, more accurately, growing up and finding oneself is hard. This is ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

A richly layered novel of hearts broken seemingly beyond repair and then bound by a stunning act of human devotion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Scribe of Siena
    by Melodie Winawer

    Equal parts transporting love story, meticulously researched historical fiction, and compelling time-travel narrative.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Chalk Pit

The Chalk Pit:
A Ruth Galloway Mystery

A string of murders takes Ruth underground in the newest book in the series.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T W Don't M A R

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -