Antigone and the Contemporary Feminist
Antigone and the Contemporary Feminist The feminism movement is a moderately new advance, which has grown increasingly popular over the past two hundred years. Even though the venture of women gaining equality with men is relatively fresh, women who have stood alone as feminists have been around for a surprisingly long amount of time. Antigone is only one example of a classic role model to contemporary feminists.
Antigone is comparable to modern-day feminists for three reasons: she confronts an authoritative institution run by men, attempts to defend her state from an intrusive supremacy, and she refuses to conform to her culturally uniform role as a woman. To begin, Antigone as a fictional character in Ancient Greek literature is a classic role model for modern day women because of her ability and courage to confront the male-dominated, authoritative institution that controls her life, both politically and socially.
The first example we see of Antigone challenging the male-dominated society she lives in is when Antigone dismisses her Uncle Creon’s laws. By defying her uncle, she is defying the entire city-state she lives in since he is its ruler. Not only does Antigone break the rules pertaining to Polynice’s burial, she does so openly and honestly. When Creon confronts her about her illegal actions, she takes responsibility for the crimes committed. “What laws? I never heard it was Zeus/ Who made that announcement. /And it wasn’t justice, either.
The gods below/Didn’t lay down this law for human use. /And I never thought your announcements/Could give you-a mere human being-/Power to trample the gods’ unfailing, /Unwritten laws. These laws weren’t made now/Or yesterday. They live for all time, /And no one knows when they came into the light. /No man could frighten me into taking on/The gods’ penalty for breaking such a law. / I’ll die in any case, of course I will, /Whether you announce my execution or not. /But if I die young, all the better:/People who live in misery like mine/Are better dead.
So if that’s the way/My life will end, the pain is nothing. But if I let the corpse-my mother’s son-/Lie dead, unburied, that would be agony. /This way, no agony for me. But you! You think/I’ve been a fool? It takes a fool to think that. ” (21). This powerful statement made by Antigone leads one to believe that she has much in common with the modern-day feminist. Antigone does not yield Creon any respect because he is a man, as was expected from women in Ancient Greece. She instead calls him a “mere human being”, and scolds him for overstepping his political bounds.
She asserts her position as a woman by letting Creon know that just because he is a man that does not mean he evokes fear in her. At the end of her speech, she calls Creon a fool for thinking that her actions were foolish, officially verifying she shows no respect for Creon, either as a man or her king. Confronting a man in great power with such unbridled honesty is both an accomplishment and an asset to most modern-day feminists. Antigone’s frankness and integrity when dealing with Creon, is only one example of her feminist qualities.
Moving on, it is clear throughout the play that Antigone attempts to preserve her state from an intrusive supremacy. Antigone attempts to better her community by rallying support from the other citizens of her city-state. This act of trying to gain popularity and momentum in her attempt to defend her home is contingent with a modern-day feminist rallying support to gain equal rights in America. This quality is first recognized in Antigone when she pleads with her sister, Ismene, to make her bold crimes heard publicly. For god’s sake, speak out. You’ll be more enemy to me if you are silent. Proclaim it to the world! ” (6). Antigone does not want to bury Polynice in secret; she wants her whole community to hear of her ventures. Antigone is optimistic that her crimes will affect the people of her city-state enough so that they will stand alongside of her cause. While her actions do render the sympathies of those around her; including the chorus and her dead brother Eteocles, the general population is too afraid of Creon’s anger to stand up for her and fight.
In a final desperate act to rally support, Antigone cries, as she is being lead to her death tomb: “City of my fathers, Thebes! /Gods of my people! /They are taking me against my will. / Look at me, O you lord of Thebes:/I am the last remnant of kings. /Look what these wretched men are doing to me, /For my pure reverence! ” (42). Antigone eventually tries to sway the citizens of Thebes by portraying herself as a sacrificial victim or a martyr. Feminism and the civil rights movement in general have used this tactic repeatedly. She uses this tool, as many modern-day feminists have, to try to win the upport of the crowds. Antigone knows that unless she can win the support of the masses she is paralyzed in her battle against Creon. Last of all, it is Antigone’s refusal to partake in the role of the average woman that makes her most like the modern-day feminist. We see Antigone’s wild, unwomanly side best when she is with her sister, Ismene. Ismene is carefully portrayed as a good, obedient, curvy woman. She would never think of overstepping the boundaries that are allotted to women in Thebes. She expresses her true interests when Antigone asks her to partake in the forbidden burial of Polynice. No. We have to keep this fact in mind:/We are women and we do not fight with men. /We’re subject to them because they’re stronger,/And we must obey this order, even if it hurts us more. /As for me, I will say to those beneath the earth/This prayer: “Forgive me, I am held back by force. “/And I’ll never aim too high, too far. ” (5). Compared with her sister, Antigone seems unruly and passionate about her struggle. Antigone is the opposite of Ismene, being slender and outspoken. She refuses to obey Creon, who is not only a man, but also her king, her uncle, and her future father-in-law.
It is possible that she choose to take a stand against Creon simply because he symbolizes everything that would block a feminist from progressing as a woman in Thebes. Antigone is essentially battling against a symbolic figure that modern-day feminists have been battling against for years. Without the support of her sister, Antigone decides to march on alone. “Go on and be the way you choose to be. I / Will bury him. I will have a noble death/ And lie with him, a dear sister with a dear brother. /Call it a crime of reverence, but I must be good to those/ Who are below. I will be there longer than with you. That’s where I will lie. You, keep to your choice: / Go on insulting what the gods hold dear. ” (6). Antigone refuses to give up on her battle with Creon even though everything she has been taught goes against this decision. She does not let the fact that she will soon see her wedding day sway her beliefs. Most importantly, she never once doubts her ability as a person, because she is a woman. This fact never seems to cross her mind or hinder the intense focus she has on her goals. Moreover, this above all, is the most comparable trait she has in common with modern-day feminists.
Like Antigone, a feminist living in contemporary society would never agree to conform to the mold that society has created for women. Antigone has proven herself as a healthy, classic role model for the modern-day feminist. Antigone is comparable to modern-day feminists for three reasons: she confronts an authoritative institution run by men, attempts to defend her state from an intrusive supremacy, and she refuses to conform to her culturally uniform role as a woman. Although Antigone’s battle ended with her death, she walked into her fate with a courage most women cannot even begin to imagine.