Throughout time, one could see the consistency on what is thought to be the womenr’s role in society. As consistent as waves washing upon a shore, society has thought that the womenr’s role is to be inferior to the men. The role of a woman is seen clearly in Sophocles Antigone and Genesis, as they both contain a convoluted view of womenr’s submission and liberation. Even today, pieces from both works are pulled to argue for or against gender dominance, an argument that has been happening for centuries. Both works of literature portray the womenr’s role in society as lesser than the men.
In Sophocles Antigone, the main character Antigone; daughter of Oedipus, expresses her desire to stand against Creonr’s law; an urge to rebel that was rarely found in ancient societyr’s women. In ancient Greece, women were found to be shy, submissive, and passive. On the contrary, men were found to be strong, brave, and dominant. Antigoner’s bravery and passion represents a rebellion that seems to upset the hierarchy that was ancient Greek society.
Her ambition of ignoring Creonr’s law and giving her dead brother; Polyneices, a proper burial marks her as a rebel among women, this can be seen when she says He has no business keeping me from what is mine. (Antigone, Line 48), the thought of a man not being able to control a woman. Antigone is willing to risk all for Polyneices honor, this is shown when she says Let me and the ill counsel that derives from me suffer this awful fate; what I shall suffer will be far less dire than dying an ignoble death! (Antigone, Line 95-97). Antigoner’s honor and willingness to die for what she believes is the right thing to do is what gives her drive to give her brother a proper burial, even if it went against King Creonr’s law.
On the other hand, Ismene, Antigoner’s sister is found to be the submissive women that appeals to Creonr’s beliefs that women are inferior to men. Her character is the very image of how women are viewed by men in ancient Greece. Her disbelief of Antigoner’s rebellious ways can be seen when she tries to dissuade Antigone from burying Polyneices. What? You bury him- when a law forbids the city? (Antigone, Line 44), Ismene expressed horror at the very thought of overstepping the womenr’s place, as she believed women were weak and men ruled all. This also reveals that she values the menr’s laws more than the gods laws.
We must remember, first, that we two are by nature women and not fit to fight with men; second, that we are ruled by others stronger then ourselves, (Antigone, Line 61-63). She argues with Antigone throughout the play, attempting to remind her that they are women, and women lack power to defy Creonr’s law. Ismene is quite literally the juxtaposition of Antigone, one willing to risk their life for their blood, the other fears authority and death. Ismene being the foil to Antigone, their differences offering perspective to the story. Ancient Greek societyr’s belief on what the role of the women is embodied in Ismene.
The common belief of the womenr’s subordination is seen in King Creonr’s character. Creon believes that the men should be the enforcers of the law while women should be weak and easily controlled. His belief that women should never be in control is seen when he speaks to Antigone, Die then, and love the dead if thou must; No woman shall be the master while I live. (Antigone, Lines 524-525). In this quote, Creon shows that his reasoning throughout the play was never based on rationality but, instead, on sexism. Creon expressed his desire to have Antigone mother Theber’s next heir; instead, of being put to death, showing that his thoughts were not with the women herself, but with her capabilities to pass on the royal blood. He views women as objects; something to be controlled by men, this can be seen in his conversation with Ismene. When Ismene reminds him of Antigoner’s engagement to his son Haimon, Creonr’s only words were There are other plots of land for him to plow (Antigone, Line 569), implying that Antigone is easily replaceable because she is nothing more than an object to please Haimon.
Equally important, are the gender roles in Genesis, the role of the women is not too different from Antigone. In the first book of the Bible, God first creates Adam and then he creates Eve. While the order of who was created first would ideally have little effect on the gender roles in society, many see Adam being created first as him being given the position of authority. It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him. (Genesis, 2:18), this quote conveys that the role of Eve is to keep Adam company, to help him when he needs it. God made Eve from Adamr’s flesh and bone, to some this might mean that she stands as his equal, for Adam was made from God and Eve from Adam. They are all made of the same flesh, therefore, they are all equal.
However, Adam was given the privilege to name every animal and to name the woman that would be his wife. This implies that Eve is not equal to her husband, and she does not share the same power as he does. It is not until after Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit that the dynamic of roles is somewhat changed. While Adam is punished, he is not made subservient to another being. Eve, on the other hand, is told that she will have the ability to bear children, only she will feel tremendous pain during the birth. In addition, the message given from Genesis on gender roles is noticeable when God informs Eve Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you (Genesis, 3:16). The quote quite clearly states the inferior role of the woman and the superiority of the man is expressed in he shall rule over you. In the Book of Genesis, one can easily observe the role of male domination.
That said, Chapter One of Genesis view on the role of genders is embodied in Antigoner’s character; her refusal to follow the social norm, and her desire to honor her fallen brother despite being promised death if done. When God took Adamr’s rib to form Eve, he saw they were of the same flesh, therefore, the same social standing. After Chapter One of Genesis, Ismene is found to be embodying the role of genders; her willingness to take orders from men and to follow Creonr’s law. Chapter Two and Three of Genesis seems to justify the views of Ismene and Creon, as it conceptualizes the inferiority of women.
In conclusion, Sophocles Antigone and the Book of Genesis both contain male dominated gender roles. The womenr’s role, in both works of literature, is to be inferior to the men, to serve them, and be controlled by them. Antigone shows the behavior that is expected of all women, and the role they are expected to play in society, while Genesis reveals the moment of women stepping in the supporting role while the man stepped into the lead. Taking all things into consideration, Antigone and Genesis may have started with different ideas of gender roles, but in the end, they both portrayed the lesser social standings of women.
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