During the time that Sophocles wrote The Oedipus Cycle, women are portrayed negatively as weak and mindless; Sophocles develops this through his use of characters, actions and thoughts. We can observe these negative attitudes about women in characters such as Iocaste, Creon and Ismene. These characters’ beliefs about gender roles affects their every action and reaction throughout the story. The Oedipus Cycle by Sophocles could be read as a critique of women’s roles.
As we consider these roles, we can look at Antigone who goes against the established expectations of the woman’s role of the time and stands up to Creon when she thinks he is being wrongful. Creon thinks that women should never disobey men; should a woman stand up against a man, he is inferior to the woman (pp 209). Antigone defies the King’s edict of civil law by following God’s law, burying her brother on two different occasions (pp 208). The first time she buried him was to keep her mind at ease because Creon would not allow anyone to bury him. The second instance was because the wind blew the dirt off her brother, after which Antigone decided to bury him for the second time. Antigone knew that defying the King in this way would result in her death, but still she accepted full responsibility. She could not live with herself if she put the will of a man before the law of God, feeling as though she would be dead in another way by submitting to King Creon’s edict (pp 209).
Iocaste thinks that women are only made to marry a man, and she is not to question anything her husband decides (pp 45). Ismene on the other hand is more indifferent and accepting of the status quo, thinks that there is nothing women can do except submit to men. She also thinks that women have no free will of their own (pp 213). Iocaste believes that women cannot do anything without the permission and approval of a man. Women have to marry into what limited positions of power chance may provide, because women could not possibly do anything correctly on their own (pp 45). Ismene thinks that women do not have choices, that if a man says something, the woman must obey immediately and submit to his wishes (pp 213). She illustrates this by saying “But can I do nothing?” During this time, most women were afraid to stand up to men or speak their mind; few would dare run the risk of doing so. Women are made to feel as though what a man says is the law and that their opinion or feelings do not matter. She thinks since Creon is accusing her of being guilty of burying her brother that she is unable to do anything or prove him wrong.
Creon has a similar point of view as Oedipus, as evidenced when they talk of women and their purpose. Creon discounts and ignores the opinions of women, he will not consider what they have to say despite any actual truth of what they might be saying (pp 209). Creon demonstrates this when he says, “This girl is guilty of a double insolence. Breaking the given laws and boasting of it. Who is the...