Hubris vs. Nemesis in Literary Stories

Creating a story that stands the test of time is difficult not because of the necessity to build a compelling character or create a narrative that allows readers to remain engaged. Although the described items are also crucial components of a story, it is an action challenging the norm that makes a narrative easily distinguishable from the rest. The dichotomy of hubris and nemesis, or the conflict between humility and arrogance, represents one of the tropes that constitute an engaging story, as a vast range of examples in literature show. The conflict in question is ubiquitous, pervading any culture and leaving a trace of itself in a vast range of narratives. Having been morphed into the constructs of pride (hubris) and fall (nemesis), as well as their logical development of chaos (hubris) and karma (nemesis), the notions under analysis affected the perception of the action that drives a narration. Although in their details, “Do You Compute?,” “Antigone,” “The Lottery,” and “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” do not resemble each other, they are all bound by the same notion of hubris expressed by an action leading to the inevitable, ostensibly karma-induced, fall, and the subsequent chaos.

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To explore the concept of hubris vs. nemesis, one may need to take retrospect into the very inception of a narrative as it is known nowadays, particularly, a three-act structure with an easily discernable conflict. “Antigone” represents the juxtaposition of hubris and nemesis by exploring the relationships of pride and fall with the latter being the inevitable outcome of the former. “Antigone” is, the most evident example of nemesis, of the downfall of the lead character, being the direct effect of the actions that they undertook and the blatant hubris that they possessed.

It is quite remarkable that not only Creon but also the titular and lead character of the play represent the demise that follows a rise in hubris. While Creon displays his arrogance and pride by reinforcing his power and sending his son to exile, Antigone also follows the path of hubris by challenging the higher authority and deciding to fight it to support Polyneices. For instance, Antigone shows a rise in hubris and the ostensible power that she has over the circumstances in the scene in which she makes her final decision: “And if I have to die for this pure crime,/ I am content, for I shall rest beside him;/ His love will answer mine” (Sophocles lines 72-74). The quote illustrates her pride and foreshadows the downfall that she will experience at the end, pointing to the need for humility.

The transfer to chaos as a result of an action taken by a character is emphasized to the point of being glaring in “The Lottery,” where a raging crowd turns a seemingly peaceful environment of a small town into a chaotic mess. Remarkably, the rapid and unexpected transition from a calm and subdued setting to a rage-induced confusion itself serves as the action that defines the existence of the story (Jackson 7). It would be a mistake to define the setting of the story as completely calm due to the tangible presence of impending doom. The element of suspense was evident throughout the entire narrative, with the reader waiting for the story to end in a shocking reveal. The author introduces a range of clues, making the culmination in the third act a tragic yet nonetheless logical conclusion to the short novel.

Another striking example of the shift from pride to fall is Le Guinn’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” The novel points to the inevitability of internal chaos that devours a seemingly perfect place where the happiness of others hinges on the suffering of an ostensibly insignificant person. In the case in point, the hubris of the religious beliefs that the residents of Omelas uphold leads to their slow demise or, in the best-case scenario, their decision to leave the artificial system that they created. The following quote shows that the residents of Omelas have experiences their downfall already, and it ensued immediately after their decision that they made:

Boundless and generous contentment, a magnanimous triumph felt not against some outer enemy but in communion with the finest and fairest in the souls of all men everywhere and the splendor of the world’s summer: this is what swells the hearts of the people of Omelas, and the victory they celebrate is that of life. (Le Guinn 3)

By concluding that the lives and needs of the many outweigh the suffering and pain of the few, the citizens of Omelas faced an immediate consequence of their actions. Happiness was no longer their option; instead, knowing that they willingly and consciously made an innocent person suffer created the premise for their following fall. Omelas was engulfed in chaos, with the probability of redemption having become minuscule for its people. The dichotomy of hubris and nemesis remains in place.

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The transition from pride to fall can become even more poignant with a shift to a different type of medium, the one that could focus on form largely to express the concern with the dichotomy of hubris and nemesis. “Do You Compute?” is one of the most recent examples of the subject matter, with the poem exemplifying the transition from one of the stages to the other. The poem expresses the social angst that has been haunting humankind since the breakthrough that allowed IT and ICT media to take control of people’s everyday lives.

Displaying the futility of the endeavors of building closer relationships with others and the attempts at imbuing one’s life with meaning, the poem starts with the description of one’s source of pride to leave the protagonist at the lowest point in his life. The depressing message of the overall despair and pointlessness of searching for any semblance of meaning is evident in these lines: “Why would they listen/to a DJ (in your car/the normal man/speaks with false/authority) who controls/the flow of genre trends/and swear words held/back in their manual/with all its rules/defiled” (“Do You Compute?”). The ostensible control that vanishes on closer scrutiny of the protagonist’s life adds to the overall depressing message of the poem, leading to the conclusion of nemesis being the only possible refuge of a human being. As a result, the poem seems to be an angry rant about the nature of humankind. Yet its anger subsides for anxiety to take control.

The presence of the dichotomy of hubris vs. nemesis can be defined as one of the foundational principles of analyzing a story in which the plot revolves around an action performed by a leading character. The action in question is what makes a story engaging and relatable to all audiences, allowing conveying the main message and cementing its meaning in the reader. By juxtaposing the notion of hubris to the one of nemesis, simultaneously colliding them in a story to produce a specific plot point, be it conflict or a resolution thereof, one can produce the narrative that will spur an emotional response in its intended audiences. Thus, the moral of the story and the message that it purports will retain their relevance even for future generations of readers, making the values that the story in question upholds truly timeless.

Works Cited

“Do You Compute?” AllPoetry.com, n.d., Web.

Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery.” Middlebury.edu, 1948, Web.

Le Guinn, Ursula. “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas.” Utilitarianism.com, n.d., Web.

Sophocles. “Antigone.” MThoyibi.files, n.d., Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, July 12). Hubris vs. Nemesis in Literary Stories. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/hubris-vs-nemesis-in-literary-stories/

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"Hubris vs. Nemesis in Literary Stories." StudyCorgi, 12 July 2021, studycorgi.com/hubris-vs-nemesis-in-literary-stories/.

1. StudyCorgi. "Hubris vs. Nemesis in Literary Stories." July 12, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/hubris-vs-nemesis-in-literary-stories/.


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StudyCorgi. "Hubris vs. Nemesis in Literary Stories." July 12, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/hubris-vs-nemesis-in-literary-stories/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "Hubris vs. Nemesis in Literary Stories." July 12, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/hubris-vs-nemesis-in-literary-stories/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Hubris vs. Nemesis in Literary Stories'. 12 July.

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