“Antigone” by Sophocles Gender Roles

The notion of gender has always been a subject for a continuous discussion, formerly claiming a distinct line between the roles of each gender. With this concept considerably expanding its semantic paradigm, people’s perception of gender started to fade. However, while gender roles in the context of society had their stigmatized norms, the world of philosophy and literature, although socially influenced, has a unique vision of the issue. One of the most vivid examples of this uniqueness might be traced in Antigone, created in approximately 441 BC by a Greek philosopher Sophocles. In terms of this essay, an attempt will be made to focus on the gender roles depiction in the tragedy.

To begin with, it is important to dwell upon the play’s gist to establish its connection to the issue. Antigone, Oedipus’s daughter, is to go through the quest in order to deliver proper burial service for her fallen brother. Consequently, the heroine is then received by the reader as a woman with a strong will and desire to take responsibility for the family. Even if to omit the timeframe the tragedy was written, today’s world of the 21st century is still not prepared for a female protagonist in both literary and social senses. The actions, along with Antigone’s perception of life, completely distort the reality of then Ancient Greece, where the symbol of masculinity was never correlated with classic female depiction.

The vivid example of Antigone’s dedication and persistence can be noticed in the following lines:

And I, whom no man’s frown can frighten,
Am far from risking heaven’s frown by flouting these.
I need no trumpeter from you to tell me I must die,
we all die anyway
And if this hurries me to death before my time,
why, such a death is gain. Yes, surely gain
to one whom life so overwhelms.
Therefore, I can go to meet my end
without a trace of pain. (Appelbaum 15).

Such a heroic perception of death could then only be noticed in the masculine perception of life. Moreover, another significant point to outline when speaking of the play is the presence of Antigone’s total opposite – her sister Ismene who serves as a symbol of homemaker and feminine tenderness. The contrast intensifies with the fact that the polar representatives of one gender are united by some blood running through their veins. Ismene represents the notion of a conventional woman in the context of Ancient Greece, unwilling to draw attention to herself, as it was not then common for a woman to be spoken about and stealing the spotlight of the men.

Taking everything into consideration, it may be concluded that when accounting for the Sophocles’ Antigone, the work itself could be revolutionary in terms of gender perception. However, what strikes the most in the following discussion in the fact that even the role of a woman and a man in society was questioned as early as 441 BC, people still act in favor of controversial stereotypes. Hence, an assumption can be made that more than two thousand years were not enough for the world to cope with the fact that nothing can fall into distinct categories. Such an issue should be combated with thousands of Antigones who revolutionize the conventional perception of society in order to create a better place to live for every individual.

Work Cited

Appelbaum, Stanley (Ed.). Antigone by Sophocles. Dover Publications, 2017.

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