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Limits Placed Upon Women In Antigone And A Doll's House

1193 words - 5 pages

Stephen Schwartz’s song, Defying Gravity, contains a very bold statement. “I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game and accepting limits because someone says they’re right.” This is something that many women have the audacity to think but never to speak aloud. However, there are two women who, even though they’re only in the play, did have the courage to say. In the plays Antigone, by Sophocles, and A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen, these two brave young women, though very distant in time periods, discover they do not like the limitations society places on women. In the play by Sophocles, a 5th century woman of nobility, Antigone, defies the laws of the government while trying to abide by the laws of the gods when she attempts to give her brother a proper burial. In Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House, set in 19th century Norway, Nora, a woman of middle class, deceives her husband in order to save his life, but then realizes he is not the man she though he was either. Both Ibsen and Sophocles portray the timeless theme of a woman finding her identity by overcoming the many barriers and restrictions patriarchal society places on them through the following areas and characteristics: expectation of being submissive to men, assumption of being incompetent, and desperation to remain acceptable by society after the demise.
Sophocles and Ibsen depict Antigone and Nora as inferior as well as subservient to their male counterparts. One such example is evident in the beginning of A Doll’s House when Torvald asks his wife Nora if she had been eating macaroons. Nora gives him a very womanly answer. “I shouldn’t think of doing what you disapprove of” (Ibsen 145). This is a response men would expect a woman to give. This quote shows that a man would expect his wife to do as he wishes and never do what he has forbidden her to do. Another instance is evident when Nora asks Torvald if it was good of her to agree to perform at the party. Torvald responds with: “Good of you! To give in to your own husband” (Ibsen 169). Torvald continues to call her a “madcap,” thus implying that it is insane to think it good of a woman to do what her husband asks (Ibsen 169). Men expected nothing less than their wives to do what they want. It injured a man’s reputation for his wife to contravene. Another example of this is in Sophocles’ play when Antigone asks her sister Ismene to help her bury their brother. “Remember we are women, we’re not born to contend with men” (Sophocles 18, line 74-75). Ismene thinks that due to the fact that she and Antigone are women, they can not bury Polynices because they are not as strong as men. Also, Ismene does not want to go against Creon’s laws because a woman is to remain inferior and never defy a man of higher authority. In both Antigone and A Doll’s House, women are presented as substandard compared to men.
In Antigone as well as A Doll’s House, the public is under the assumption that all women are incompetent. This becomes...

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