The Role of Women in Oedipus Rex

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For centuries women have fought to obtain basic civil rights and today, they are still fighting to obtain equal rights. From the right to vote to their right to birth control, women have always been trying to assert their own independence in order to expand their freedom. While much progress has been made, there is still room for improvement. However, the evolution of women’s rights and the role of women is mirrored in literature and can be used to illustrate the progression throughout history. Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex is no different. Through the character Jocasta, Sophocles creates a counterpart to Oedipus and uses her to reveal the oppression of women by contrasting her and Oedipus’ relationships and reactions to the prophecy. Throughout the play Oedipus Rex, Sophocles illustrates Jocasta’s vulnerability and supportive nature in order to women as fragile, doting, and obedient wives and mothers to facilitate the necessity of self-assertion.

Jocasta’s compliance to the demands of the men around her is revealed through her constant role as a nurturing mother, one who provides emotional connections, but cannot make decisions. This role spans throughout the entire prophecy, throughout her entire life, and throughout her roles as Oedipus’ mother and then his wife. With the arrival of the prophecy that her and Laios’ son is destined to kill his own father and marry his own mother, Jocasta had to leave her child to essentially die in order to evade the prophecy. A mother’s first instinct is typically to protect her child at all costs; however, Jocasta goes against this by actually putting her child in danger in order to protect her husband. This instance proves that the husband seems to be the main focus. Every action seems to be to p...

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