Powerful Women In Antigone And A Doll’s House

1427 words - 6 pages

The music group, Aqua, once sang in their song, “Barbie Girl,” “I’m a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world. Life in plastic, it’s fantastic.” Aqua’s lyrics symbolize the role women had to play in the 18th century. Women were expected to perform like perfect human beings, and put a smile on their faces regardless of the situation. They were expected to follow the rules at all times and submit to men in an instance. Antigone, written by Sophocles, and A Doll’s House, written by Henrik Ibsen, demonstrate the interaction and roles with men and women during the 18th century. The main characters in both plays, Antigone in Antigone and Nora in A Doll’s House, show how women have struggled to find their place in the social order. They had to fight for what they wanted and face dire consequences if they disobeyed the law. Sophocles and Ibsen display the constraints placed upon women in patriarchal societies and examine how the women overcome them by creating characters that display the following characteristics: strained relationship with men, braveness, and heroine.
Along with all other women in the 18th century, Antigone and Nora had a patriarchal relationship with men. During an instance in A Doll’s House, Nora tells Helmer how she feels about their relationship: “We have been married eight years. Does it not strike you that this is the first time we two, you and I, man and wife, have talked together seriously?” (Ibsen 196) The relationships between man and woman were so limited in what was appropriate for a man or woman to talk about to their spouse, that Nora could not express her personal feelings in front of a man that was supposed to stand by her until death due them part. This instance displays the tragic truth about how women could not have their own feelings or opinions around anyone, especially their husband. During another instance in A Doll’s House, Nora has to tell Mrs. Linden to leave the room when Helmer gets home because Helmer does not like seeing “Women’s work.” Nora was forced to hide her personal possessions in front of her husband. This shows how women were forced to alter their lifestyle to please their husbands. Nora had to go out of her way in order to make her husband satisfied. In Antigone, Ismene replies to Antigone’s plan to bury her brother with a feminist remark: “Remember we are women, we’re not born to contend with men. Then too, we’re underlings, ruled by much stronger hands, so we must submit to this...” (Sophocles 18) Ismene clearly shows that she and Antigone cannot compete with men because men are physically and mentally stronger. This shows how Ismene and all other women thought they had to submit to the authority of the state and to man in order to live fruitfully in society. Antigone and Nora exhibit in many different instances how women had a very limited relationship with men.
Antigone and Nora had the courage to possess one of the characteristics that many women during the 18th century failed to acquire:...

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