The Depiction of Gender Roles in Antigone
Throughout the years, women have always been stereotyped to be inferior to men. This issue extends all the way from early civilization to unfortunately today. Society has made sure to show that men are the providers and the head of the household, when in fact the women are the head of the household.
In Ancient Greece accordingly to the existing gender roles, women were treated worst than dirt and even better than a slave. They had no say in anything. However, there has also been a constant power struggle between men and woman, which is still true today. In the play by Sophocles, Antigone, the heroine of the play disobeys all the rules of the kingdom so her brother can get an honorable burial, the way he deserves. She end up getting caught. As a result of this, Creon is in shocked and could not believe his niece is the one behind this disaster. Although Creon needs to remain strong in front of the kingdom and its citizens, he is fighting between what is right and his family. Unfortunately, his opinions do not change and he is going ahead with the public death. Further more, regardless all of the warnings that were given, Creon loses everyone he loved.
So, how does gender roles play in the work? How does martial status of a character affect decisions and happiness as well as if this work challenges or affirms traditional views of woman. All of these questions will be answered through the feminist lens view, as it shows in great deal power struggle between all characters. It characterizes how woman are undermined in this political, social and psychological play.
Masculine Characters – Antigone
Women have always been at the lowest level of the totem pole of equality. In Ancient Greece they were nobody. As a matter of fact they were even less than a slave, insignificant to men. The only thing women were good for was sex, taking care of the man, kids and the house. Antigone was the opposite of this. She was a strong-willed woman who fought for rights as well as her family’s, regardless of what it went against. Creon is a man’s man. The meaning behind that is he will not let himself be dominated or ruled by a woman. This is an instant weakness for a man. These two characters are to be seen as the masculine characters of this story. There are tough and will not let themselves to be manipulated by no one, especially not family or gender. For example, Antigone told her sister that: “Be as you choose to be, but for myself, I myself will bury him. IT WILL BE GOOD TO DIE SO DOING. I shall lie by his side loving him as he loved me. I shall be a criminal but a religious one. The time in which I must please those are dead is longer than I must please those of this world. For there I shall lie forever you if you like can cast dishonor on what the gods have honored.” She is literally telling her sister, listen I can do this with or without you. Regardless, I am still going ahead with his burial not thinking of the consequences taken into consideration.
Of course, the consequences didn’t matter, she was not a traditional woman. She wasn’t married and had no kids which is unusual for the existing gender roles and priorities. Antigone says to Creon: “Yet those who think rightly will think I did right in honoring you. Have I been A mother of children, and my husband been dead and rotten, I would not have Taken this weary task upon me against the will of the city. What law backs me When I say this? I will tell you: If my husband were dead, I might have another And child from another man, if I lost the first. But when father and mother both Were hidden in death no brothers life would bloom for me again.”(952-962) Antigone falls weak due to her dying. Like ever man weakness comes at a certain point. She wonders if she been married or even if children would do this burial for her mother. She had no concerns at all at the moment was she did her brothers burial. So the question does the martial status of a character affect decisions and happiness. Yes, it does. Antigone in very few words says it does. Her mindset would have been different. She would of thought more of consequences before going against the rules.
Just like Antigone, Creon is the same way, he says, “Now here I am holding all authority and the throne in virtue of the kinship with the dead. It is impossible for any man I mean his soul intelligence and judgement until he shows his skill in rule and law.” (191-195) Death by being stoned. As you can see, Creon is also very strong willed just like Antigone, a very masculine persona in a man. They both will not bow down to authority and this is where we see the power struggle between these two. In authors name, After Antigone: Women, the past and the future of the feminist political thought, she clearly states that, “Antigone and Creon each produce a competing discourse of kinship and citizenship of family and day doing so each promotes a distinct vision of the city’s future that attempts to alter the course”.
Here is where you can see the clear message in both of Antigone and Creons struggling with there gender power. So, lets ask ourselves how do gender roles work itself into this play? Well it very clear. The whole play points out the gender roles racism towards both male and female. Antigone, is being attacked by Creon, because she is a woman. In his mind, she cannot have a say against anything and worst of all fight against the king. How dare she come at him like that? She does and it does not matter to her. By Antigone going against the king, she is coming of as arrogant and that she defies any kind of authority. Even if it kill her she will do what she wants whether the king like it not. Even if she death is the outcome she will fight for what is right. As you can see in Catherine Holden’s, After Antigone: “To embrace the public order without simultaneously consisting terms is to ignore the ancient wisdom of Antigone, the woman who threw sand into the machinery of arrogant public power. Antigone’s defiance of her king marks a final, fatal attempt to defend her prerogative of the family and household against the imperious demands and overweening the claims of the state value.’’ This is where you the can the gender roles appeared even more. Being a woman and not needing a man to defend her is what makes this story competition between being male and female. In this play the traditional woman’s views are challenged within. Woman are known to be submissive to mean for as long as we know, however Antigone completely defies that and stand up what she believes unlike Creon who is not use to this type of woman power. Which completely catches him off guard, but what makes it even worst its that its own blood. This makes him a fool and put him against his son, who would be a female character of the story.
Feminine Characters – Haemon
There are two female characters in this play. This would be Antigone sister and fiancé Ismene and Haemon. “In Ancient Greece, woman were seen as the opposite or subjugated opponents of men. Male Greek society valued rational discourse, military and physical endurance and self restraint. Women were believed to be irrational, fearful and rules by desires.”( women in Ancient Greece) This speaks about the woman being the weaker and traditional sex. We are known to be emotional, manipulative creatures and to be the overreacters.
However, this is not always true. Men sometimes have women characteristics. I can say Haemon some of the traits I see in him. Let’s break down Haemons name. It sounds like gynecological term Hymen. Which means to be to virginal innocent. What is the very first thing Haemon does instead of being a man and standing up for his fiancé. He agrees with his father first then eventually he to turns things around on his father. For starters, Haemon says to his father, “Father I am yours with your excellent judgement you lay the right before me and I shall follow it. No marriage will ever be so valued by me as to over ride the goodness of your leadership”( 685-688) Haemon is using his female character to grab his dads attention by telling his your are and I will follow what you say. This is a typical female trait manipulating to get what we want. In destabilizing Haemon, Miller speaks about “The structure that Creon Adapts to his ideological forces contradictions together and assimilates them with gendered referents: Loyalty/son/subservient/masculine vs with disloyalty /citizen/independent/feminine.
The ideological basis for this scheme is readily apparent, masculinity is tied to loyalty, conversely femininity is characterized as disloyal but independent and active. In the quote, speaks about that woman are known to be deceitful and men are ones that are know to have each other’s backs. If we look at this through the feminist Lens, this is true I don’t want to say racist but the part where we are suppose to be equal then this makes sense not just then but also know. Woman are known to the deceitful ones we do what we have to get we want, but same goes from men as a matter a fact they maybe even more deceitful because if a man is connected to loyalty, then this shows how men will also make you trust them and get away with whatever they want.
Now let’s speak about a little bit of Ismene, she is a very traditional woman. Submissive to what a man will say. She will not challenge anything that goes against the king. For example, when Antigone speaks to her about the burial for her brother, Ismene pretty much told her. Ismene, speaks tp her sister, “You out to realize we are only women not mean on nature to fight against men that we are ruled, by those who are stronger to obedience on this and even more painful matter.”(70-73).
She was brought up to say yes and no, follow the rules and that was it. By trying to make her sister understand that as woman were suppose to obey and not disagree against what we are told. Destabilizing Haemon, makes a good point, “Both characters, Haemon and Ismene, either are or will potentially be raving because of their passion and concern forAntigone. For both Creon and Antigone. Ismene represents a stereotypical female. She is disturbed at her sisters proposal to disobey the state, suggest that any auction against the state should be done deceptively and is concerned with her family despite Antigones dismissal” Here we see the 2 “female characters” of the story. Through he Feminist Lens, we have the women that always stick to together and fight together for that they believe. Just like Ismene, Haemon, may not bluntly say he is mad or worried at Antigone for going against his father but by the way he plays on words when he agrees with his father you can tell his worried and mad at Antigone for against the king. (Hint worry like women do).
There are characters in this play that have reversed roles. We have looked into how the gender roles play in the work. The whole play showed that it was a ongoing competition between men and women. There is no equality it a mans world. This also shows that marriage can play a big part in the story. Antigone said if she would have had kids and a happy marriage none of this would of happen because she would have a reason to live for. Which can contradict the challenge of the traditional view of women and the existing gender roles. This play reverses the roles of men were the woman and women were the men. We all have feminine and masculine characters within ourselves and are more capable to do things and fight for what is right although at moment of weakness we tend to have a different outlook.
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