In Antigone, is Ismene an apathetic character?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Ismene is not apathetic.  I don't see her as not caring.  I think that she is legitimately conflicted.  She really is torn.  To a great extent, she might be more torn that Creon or Antigone.  She is pitted against the loyalty to her sister as well as the adherence to cultural norms.  Her sister, Antigone, wants her help in doing honor to their brother.  Yet, Greek society is fairly direct in that women cannot step outside the expectations that are placed upon them.  It is here where Ismene cannot be seen as apathetic.  She is torn between loyalty to her family and loyalty to her community.  Expulsion from either is painful and Ismene knows it:

But what more, my poor girl, in times like these,(40)
could I do that would not tangle the knot further?

The image of not wishing to "tangle the knot further" precludes apathy.  It shows that she understands what it is that she needs to do and knows what has to be done.  She is in a no win position, one where she understands that there is pain and suffering in either predicament.  She does not choose apathy as a way out of this predicament. Rather, she understands that this is her position and her sense of being in the world.  She is pain ridden by it, and is not apathetic to her own plight.

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