Sophocles Inequality of Gender Roles

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During the time that Sophocles wrote The Oedipus Cycle, women are portrayed negatively as weak and mindless; Sophocles develops this through his use of characters, actions and thoughts. We can observe these negative attitudes about women in characters such as Iocaste, Creon and Ismene. These characters’ beliefs about gender roles affects their every action and reaction throughout the story. The Oedipus Cycle by Sophocles could be read as a critique of women’s roles.

As we consider these roles, we can look at Antigone who goes against the established expectations of the woman’s role of the time and stands up to Creon when she thinks he is being wrongful. Creon thinks that women should never disobey men; should a woman stand up against a man, he is inferior to the woman (pp 209). Antigone defies the King’s edict of civil law by following God’s law, burying her brother on two different occasions (pp 208). The first time she buried him was to keep her mind at ease because Creon would not allow anyone to bury him. The second instance was because the wind blew the dirt off her brother, after which Antigone decided to bury him for the second time. Antigone knew that defying the King in this way would result in her death, but still she accepted full responsibility. She could not live with herself if she put the will of a man before the law of God, feeling as though she would be dead in another way by submitting to King Creon’s edict (pp 209).

Iocaste thinks that women are only made to marry a man, and she is not to question anything her husband decides (pp 45). Ismene on the other hand is more indifferent and accepting of the status quo, thinks that there is nothing women can do except submit to men. She also thinks that women have no ...

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... since they were the rulers, they could speak to a woman in any manner they wished, they could even tell women how to think. This same attitude is how some men think about and treat women still today, in our own country. Some men think that women should just marry, cook, clean and have children. Men think women could not possibly be good for anything else outside of these basic functions. In a sad example of human culture, very few could have predicted women today would face the same challenges as women 1,570 years ago!

Works Cited

Catalyst. Catalyst Quick Take: Women’s Earnings and Income. New York: Catalyst, 2014.

Sophocles. (1977). The Oedipus Cycle. (D. Fiits & R. Fitzgerald, Trans.) Oedipus Rex. (Original Work Written 429 B.C.E.)

Sophocles. (1977). The Oedipus Cycle. (D. Fiits & R. Fitzgerald, Trans.) Antigone. (Original Work Written 441 B.C.E.)
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