Oppression Of Women In Medea

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The role of women in society has continuously shifted throughout history, for centuries they have struggled to find their place in a predominantly patriarchal world. As their roles in fiction often mirror viewpoints of the society at the time, literature can be used as a looking glass to see how and why they are presented as such. In the ancient world literacy was limited and the majority of writers were male, immediately hindering women’s influence. As far back as 431 BC we see the oppression of women in literature. Euripides’ ancient Greek tragedy Medea follows the title character Medea, who seeks revenge on her husband (Jason) after he betrays her for another woman. Jason, who is symbolic of the patriarchal Greek society claims, "What we poor males really need is a way of having babies on our own – no females, please. Then the world would be completely trouble free" , which is, un-coincidently the fundamental plot of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s tale, which I will discuss in more detail later. Her bloody revenge, which includes the incineration of Jason’s newlywed wife Glauke, and the slaughter of her own two sons shocks and unsettles contextual and contemporary audiences alike. Euripides presents Medea in such a brutal and vicious way as he is criticising the male dominated society of the time; he is showing the only hope women have of gaining an equal footing is through extreme action and horrific displays of violence. This play is viewed as one of the earliest known feminist literary works. In Medieval literature women were presented as damsels in distress. Fairy tales like Rapunzel, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty all come from the middle Ages, which are all variations of the classic, arguably patronising tale in which ... ... middle of paper ... ...convention that sexual license is a male prerogative. In the world of Gilead woman are sexual slaves, and sex is separated from sexuality. Yet in this tale, sexual license is very much in the hands of its women. The narrator feels a ”strange, impersonal arousal” to marrying an older, more experienced man, and she expresses her frustration when she has “to be content” with only having dinner with him after he deserts their honeymoon for business. Feminism in literature is identified as a liberatory act which resists patriarchal norms and attempts to change the rules of the old game by affirming the power of women. Atwood and Carter didn’t experience the social constraints like Ibsen did when writing, however nonetheless, each successfully use their literary craft to paint a picture of the difficulties women have, will, and could face in a world dominated by men.
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