fe. Phrases or quotes found inworks of literature may be used to help express one’s own thoughts, to describe a particular
situation, or even to apply the circumstances in another piece of literature. Readers often
utilize literary quotes for this purpose, yet not every reader will interpret a given quote the
same way. One example of a phrase which can have many different meanings is the biblical
quote “The sins of the father visit upon the children.”
A literal interpretation of the above quote would mean the wrongdoings of the father
somehow affects the children. If the “bad habits” of one generation aren’t corrected, they
will be passed on to the generations that follow. That can result in generations of drug
abusers, spouse abusers, or just rude people. One example of this interpretation might be if a
father is a drug abuser, the children will learn from him, and use drugs also. Another
example is if the father is abusive, the children will think that is how problems are solved.
They, in turn, will be abusive to their families, and will start a vicious cycle for generations to
come. These examples definitely show how this biblical quote may be interpreted literally.
“The sins of the father visit upon the children” has a deeper meaning than that
described above. For example, “father” could be changed to “parent,” and these “parents”
could mean “generations” that precede the children. A situation that would represent that
would be war or pollution. A second example which illustrates how this quote may be
interpreted on a more global level is preceding generations could affect the children by
means of racial discrimination that has been passed down from long ago. This may have
started with slavery and segregation. Then, as generations follow, racial discrimination is
passed. All of these situations prove that one quote may have many different meanings.
A third way to interpret this biblical quote is to change the word “sins” to a more
general or positive term such as “behaviors”, “expectations”, “experiences”, or even “good
deeds”. By making such a substitution, the quote takes on a new meaning. This makes the
biblical quote good or bad depending on the “behaviors”. For example, the father may
behave in a polite way, which would teach the children behaviors that make many friends, get
job offers, and basically get the most out of life. On the other hand, the fathers behaviors
could be rude, and the children would learn to be mean, which would cause them to lose
their jobs and friends. Another situation which illustrates this new idea is if the father has
experienced many important ways to tackle every day conflicts, he can teach the children
easier ways to work out problems, to do school work, and teach the right ways to talk to
people and get what you want, such as talking your way into a job offer, or a higher job rank.
While changing the focus of the original quote does add new meaning, the idea that
the deeds of one generation affect those who follow, is still apparent.
The quote “the sins of the father visit upon the children”, certainly applies to the
circumstances of the Greek drama Antigone. In this drama, the core conflict is a result of a
curse on Oedipus when he kills his father. This conflict demonstrates man vs. the laws of the
sate. This is the conflict that hurts following generations. Antigone wants to marry her
brother, but where she lives it is against Creon’s laws. Other problems which exist in
Antigone are also caused by actions of a father or “father figure”. One such situation is when
Creon wants to punish Antigone to death even though his son, Haimon, is to marry her. It is
easy to see how this biblical quote pertains, in particular, to the circumstances in the Greek
drama Antigone. The above examples also show that one can use quotes from one piece of
literature to help understand and clarify the actions and events in another.
Literature does imitate real life, and phrases found in literary works can successfully
describe life experiences. The phrase “The sins of the father visit upon the children” can be
interpreted in many different ways depending on how you look at different words, or how
you apply them to real life or literature. You can take word “father” literally, or take it as a
word that means parent. “Father” can even mean generations of families. It just depends on
the context of the situation.