Sophocles’ Oedipus Cycle – Antigone, as a Feminist
Throughout history, women have always stood in the shadows of men. In many cultures, the role of women has always been to be seen and not heard. As one of the first feminists in world literature, the character Antigone, of Sophocles’ Oedipus Cycle, displays fine characteristics of a great female leader in order to stand up against male dominance for her religious, political, and personal beliefs. When the king denies her brother, Polynices, proper burial, Antigone goes against state law by burying him herself in order to protect heavenly decree and maintain justice. In doing this, she steps out of her place as a woman in a male dominated society.
In order to characterize Antigone as a feminist, it is important to study Antigone’s early childhood, which displays the origins of the characteristics found in her that make her a feminist. In Oedipus of Colonus, Sophocles illustrates these qualities that Antigone possesses. During the first twenty years of her life, Antigone spends her time secluded from society with her blind, exiled father, Oedipus. Sophocles sums up her childhood in the following soliloquy by Oedipus:
"Since her childhood ended and her body gained its power, has wandered ever with me, an old man’s governess; often in the wild forest without shoes, and hungry, beaten by many rains tired by the sun; yet she rejected the sweet life of home so that her father should have sustenance" (Fitts 104). Because she is secluded, Antigone never has to take her place in society as a woman. Without a female role model to show her how a woman is supposed to act, there is no one to raise her as a woman. She spends her days taking care of her blind father and leading him. She is his eyes and thus sees through the eyes of a male. She does not see the barriers that faced most women of the time. A sort of role reversal takes place between her and her father. She takes the position of the father and head of the family while her blind, helpless father acts as the child dependent upon Antigone for survival. She is in charge of making the decisions, caring for him, and being his shoulder as well as his eyes. In leading him and caring for him, she develops herself into a much stronger woman than the women of her society, becoming strong both mentally and physically. It is during this time in her life that Sophocles develops Antigone’s most important trait, her strong will.
Years later, after Oedipus’ death, Antigone uses the characteristics and qualities that have developed inside of her through the years towards fighting for that which she believes. When the king denies her brother a proper burial and makes it illegal for anyone to bury him in Sophocles’ Antigone, Antigone decides it is up to her to take justice into her own hands and give him a proper burial. As a feminist she stands up to male dominance in order to make her views heard.
Antigone forces her political and religious views...