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I like the opening scene's exchange between Antigone and Ismene for quotes on the conflict between men and women. Antigone represents the force for social change in her arguments that men's laws, when unjust, should be challenged. Ismene is more representative of the traditional view whereby there should not be challenges of men's laws because she and her sister are women, and are not the in the position to wage such challenge. It is here where I think some very meaningful quotes about individual power based on gender can be found. Ismene's articulation of the traditional notion of gender can be seen here:
And now the two of us, left all alone—
think how very horribly we will die
if we go against the king's decree and strength(60)
outside the law. Rather, consider that we
were born women, proving we should not fight with men,
and that we are ruled by more powerful people
and must obey them, even in more painful things.
Notice the language Ismene employs to convey both her predicament as a sister and women. "Left all alone," "horribly" in describing the manner of death are both representative of how the traditional view of women are held in Greek society. Additionally, the idea that being "born" women is somehow a second rate condition is matched with men being "more powerful people." Antigone's response is fairly interesting in this light:
But let me and my foolish plans suffer(95)
this terrible thing, for I shall succumb
to nothing so awful as a shameful death.
In Antigone's mind, being a woman is not the issue. The fundamental issue is believing in a cause, in "foolish plans." Her entire line of response to Ismene is the belief in something more transcendental than the contingent condition of men vs. women. Antigone does not spend time in arguing the merits of female empowerment. Rather, she seems to transcend gender and embrace the idea that every human being commits themselves to something, someone, some idea. When Antigone tells Ismene to not "worry for me; straighten out your own life," it is telling. Such a line reveals that Antigone's fundamental argument is that one neednt be locked in gender specified roles if they passionately hold beliefs in what they see as right and just. It is here where Antigone becomes more than a feminist, and embraces the idea that contingency and condition does not define human beings, regardless of gender.
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