January 11, 2018
Sisters Intertwined With Fate
A story full of tragedy, mythology, and testing gender normalities encompass the book of Antigone. Two sisters, Antigone and Ismene, with different viewpoints about how woman should be in the society, shapes the choices each of them make within the story. Antigone, full of fiery compassion for social justice, along with her true loyalty to her family makes her the heroine of this story. On the other hand, Ismene, being voice of reason for Antigone, loves her sister dearly, and knows her role in society and has no inclination of challenging it.
One of the major conflicts in Antigone, is the struggles between men and women. Since birth, Ismene tells Antigone “women were not born to contend with men, (75) displaying that women were obedient and passive towards men. In the same passage, Ismene says, “we’re underlinings, ruled by stronger hands,” (76) a representation that women are treated like second class citizens in the eyes in men. Antigone, the only woman in Thebes who desires to break away from this normality, and stands up to Ismene’s passivity by urging her to defy Creon by burying Polynices. By breaking Creon’s decree, Antigone challenges the traditional gender roles women and men played in that society.
Antigone believes that woman should be empowered and strong, even at the risk of challenging the power of men. When Antigone proposes to bury Polynices, Ismene says, “we’re not born to contend with men”. (75) Antigone responds with, “that death will be a glory” (86), expresses her anger at Ismene’s passivity. After the burial of Polynices, Antigone says defiantly, “I did it. I don’t deny a thing,” (492) while being questioned by Creon and later says that she was “not ashamed for a moment, not to honor my brother” (572-3). Antigone’s inspiring speech and her defiance towards the normal gender roles which shows her desires for gender equality.
Ismene has the ideology that women are “underlinings” and are not “contending with men” (76) because she knows that men will always have control over society. This viewpoint of men’s domination over women displays Ismene to be submissive while also being fearful of men’s authority over women. Ismene is not able to have control over her destiny because she is fearful of men’s power, which ultimately leads to her refusal to bury Polynices. Later on in the story, Ismene questions Creon’s reasoning by saying, “you’d kill your own son’s bride?” (641) which indicates that she is finally aware that women should have their own voice and power in society.