Antigone is about a woman with the same name as the title who is willing to die as she goes against the king’s rule to bury her brother while A Doll’s House focuses on the Helmer Family especially Nora who tries to balance being a mother and a secret she is keeping. We see different kinds of women represented throughout both stories. In Antigone, Antigone is the tragic hero figure while her sister Ismene is submissive to societal rules. In A Doll’s House, Nora Helmer is submissive to her husband and family until the end while Kristine is a caregiver searching for a job. Sophocles and Henrik Ibsen both support feminism through the fate of both Antigone and Nora Helmer. In Antigone, we see two different types of representation between the sisters.
Ismene is the more submissive one as she doesn’t go against the rules or the king. When talking to Antigone, we see that Antigone submits to the gods rule while Ismene submits to King Creon’s laws and rules instead. Ismene knows what would happen if she dared to defy the king. She doesn’t want to be put to death unlike Antigone. Antigone is willing to die when she goes up against authority because she would rather listen to the gods who are above the king than the king himself. Antigone knows that burying her brother despite the king’s order is what is right. Antigone would rather die for standing up for what is right instead of staying silent and leaving her brother behind. Antigone ends up being the tragic hero of the story in the process of going against the patriarchal system that is in place. This shows the difference between the two sisters. They were both submissive, but in different ways and for different reasons. We all want to be like Antigone, and some of us are like Ismene.
In the article “Women’s Third Face: A Psycho/Social Reconsideration of Sophocles’ Antigone”, the author states; “The heroine’s adamant devotion to Polynices does not seem to extend to Ismene ….. Male kin are arguably more “valuable” than females in Greek society, since female kin join other families upon their marriage; yet Antigone does not seem to subscribe to this view at the opening of the play and, in any case, it fails to account for her abrupt reversal of feeling.” (Johnson, 1997). We see in the story of Antigone that there is a patriarchal system in place that is corrupt. It all started with Eteocles and Polynices. Eteocles didn’t want to step down from the throne despite the agreement that he had with his brother, and therefore, Polynices responded by bringing an army to dethrone him.
They both end up dying at the end of the war, and Creon becomes king of Greece. The corruption doesn’t stop there. King Creon not only buries Eteocles, but he also gives him military service and honors. You would think that the king would do the same thing for Polynices. Not by a long shot. Instead of doing the same thing for Polynices, King Creon just leaves him on the battlefield unburied, and states that it is against the law for anyone to bury him. The king claims that Polynices fought against his own home, that he shouldn’t be given a proper burial. I understand this, but at the same time, Eteocles isn’t perfect either. If it wasn’t for Eteocles refusing to step down, Polynices wouldn’t want to dethrone him by attacking. This shows how Creon uses his power in a corrupt fashion.
We see that the Antigone and Polynices reflect one another in many ways. Antigone and Polynices both go against the corruption of the throne. They fight for what is right and what they believe in. We also see Creon and Eteocles reflect one another as well. We see that Eteocles abuses his power by not giving the throne to his brother despite the deal that they had made between one another. He ended up cursed and died because. It also affected the people around him as his brother also died because of it, and their sisters had to deal with the loss of their siblings. When Creon took over, he abused his power, and displeased the gods as well as his people. Creon’s time on the throne also affected the people around him, and there were people that died because of it. In the end, Creon is alone without anyone by his side. We see not only how the kings are corrupt, but we also see how the patriarchal system in place is corrupt overall.
We see that Antigone and Ismene are also children of Oedipus and Jocasta. We don’t see Jocasta remain queen after Oedipus’ exile. Instead, her sons Eteocles and Polynices, who originally make a deal to share the throne, take over. Then when they die in battle, Antigone nor Ismene become queen even though they were daughters of the previous king, Oedipus. Instead, it is Creon who becomes the next king who isn’t a child of Oedipus, but is Jocasta’s brother (the sisters’ uncle). Instead of continuing with the Oedipus line, they start with a whole other line in Creon. This is just one example of how a patriarchal system was in place when it came to royalty.
This was very common as we also saw it with countries like England. Kings were pressured to produce male heirs so they could continue the royal bloodline. King Henry VIII was famous for having many wives because they were the reason behind him not producing male heirs. King Henry VIII went to great lengths to make sure he got a boy by creating a church because the Catholtic church would not grant him a divorce from one of his wives. So, he created a church just so he could get a divorce from his wife.
In the article, “Heroism In Sophocles’ Antigone”, the author states; “We, as modern readers, find it exciting to conceptualize Antigone’s defiance as an expression of humanist values that undermine the patriarchal order of things, but as Hegel asserted, and many others since have reinforced Antigone’s “defiance” of Ceron.” (Verkerk, 2014). Throughout literature history, we don’t see too many heroes that are women, especially popular ones until just recently in the past few decades. Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, Hermoine Granger in the Harry Potter series, Princess Leia in the Star Wars Series, Wonder Woman, The Scarlet Witch, Black Widow, Supergirl, and Sansa Stark from Game of Thrones are only some of the examples of strong, independent, and smart women that are represented in both literature and cinema. We see them have personalities and character developments as well as being main characters instead of being one dimensional and off to the side behind a male lead. Antigone is the same way.
Like these characters, they all have values and morals who stand up for what they believe in. They know what is on the line, and even if they are afraid, we see them use their bravery to defy the society that is in the wrong like Antigone does. Each one of these characters in literature and cinema show people who are reading and watching these books and movies, that women are more than just objects. That they have minds of their own as well as values, morals, dreams, and personalities. We see that each one of these characters are good role models for the people that are reading them in literature, or watching them on the screen. We see that Antigone stood up for what was right and buried her brother while Nora stood up for herself at the end of the play by leaving everything behind to focus on herself. We see with Antigone it was selfless as she was thinking of her brother while Nora was focused more on herself like Ismene.
We see that Sophocles supports feminism not only with the story of Antigone, but the fate of her as well. Antigone decides to take matters into her own hands in the end by killing herself instead of having died from another’s hands. King Creon first lost to Antigone when he had to bury Polynices because of the gods and the people. Polynices gets the burial that Antigone wanted. Creon ends up losing everything even though he’s still King. He ends up blaming himself for everything which he should since it was his fault. We see that family is truly what is most important and not having power. We also see this in “A Doll’s House” where Torvald Helmer was in a similar position as King Creon.
Torvald Helmer was the breadwinner of the household, and the one that was in charge due to societal norms, but did he really? We see with Creon in Antigone, he had power as he was the king, but it was the gods and the people that truly had the power due to the fact that the king ultimely answered to them. King Creon didn’t want to upset the people or the gods, and eventually changed his law on the burial of Polyneices. The same goes with Torvald Helmer. We see when the truth comes out about Nora and the loan, we see that everything starts to spiral out of control. Torvald believes that he is in control since he forgives his wife, and that his wife is totally dependent on him. He claims that the reason behind Nora doing what she did was because of her “most endearing feminie trait”, foolishness because men can’t be foolish. Torvald tries to save their marriage due to their reputation, and not out of love for his wife while Nora finally leaves him at the end because she finally sees who Torvald really is. Even before this, Torvald wasn’t really in control of anything in the house. He had no idea what was really going on. Torvald also didn’t have the control over his wife like he thought he did.
We see that the societal norms during this time, women were not allowed to receive a loan without a father or husband to signature. So, basically, women could not get a loan without a man’s help. Women were the caregiver who worked at home and took care of the household while the men were breadwinner of the family as well as the leader and protector. We see this in the Helmer family who are most likely in the middle class. Nora Helmer is the person that cleans the house, takes care of their children, does the shopping, and is in charge of workers in their home (the maid). In the beginning, we are introduced to Nora doing Christmas shopping. Torvald Helmer is the one that has a good job at the bank, and gets a promotion during the play. We first see him enter as he is working in his study.
We see that Nora is a hero in her own right as she did something illegal to help her husband by forging her father’s signature without her husband or father’s knowledge. In today’s society, women can get a loan without a man, and we take that for granted. It wasn’t a right that women had during the time of the Helmer’s. It took a lot for Nora to do that, and knew what might happen if anyone found out especially with her husband working at a bank. With this money, they were able to go to Italy so Torvald can recover. When they come back, Nora secretly starts to pay off the loan which is hard to due during this time since it was hard for women to find a job. We see that Nora is not only a caregiver to her children, but also a caregiver to her husband. She is willing to do what it takes to fill that role even if it means breaking the law to do so. In the article, “Nora as a Doll in Henrik Isben’s A Doll’s House”, Micheal Wiseman states; “In her dream world, Nora takes a backseat approach in life and becomes like an object, reacting to others expectations rather than advancing herself. As a result of her passivity, Torvald is very possessive of, frequently adding the “my” modifier to all the pet names he calls her.”
Despite doing everything that Nora could for her husband including breaking the law, Torvald sees her as his property, and states that she is like a child, doll-like. Not only does Torvald see her as doll-like, but Nora also feels like she had to fill that role all her life due to societal roles. In the same article; Micheal Wiseman states; “The father-daughter relationship is referred to later when Nora confronts Torvald in the final act. She makes this connection that life with her was like life with Torvald. Nora’s father would force his beliefs on her and she would comply with them lest she upset him; she would bury her personal belief under Papa’s”. (Wiseman, 2014). We see Nora do this with not only her father, but with Torvald most of the play. Nora transfers from her role as obedient daughter to obedient wife. Like Ismene, Nora is submissive to the authority in her life, first with her father then husband because of the patriarchal system that is in place during that time. We then see Nora go from choosing her duties of being a wife, daughter, and mother to eventually choosing duties for herself.
Wiseman states; “At the end of the play, the doll symbolism becomes very powerful. Nora imagines that Torvald will two dimensionally remain morally upright and, on principle, defend Nora’s honor and not allow Krogstad to blackmail the Helmers.” (Wiseman, 2014). Of course, this does not happen, and Nora finds out that she doesn’t really know the man that she had married. Nora finally stands up for herself, and does what she wants instead of what everyone else wants her to do. Henrik Isben supports feminism through the fate of Norma Helmer. We see first, that Nora goes up against the patriarchal system and societal norms when she illegally gets a loan then secondly when she leaves Torvarld and her family behind which was something that rarely happens even during that time period. Nora took control of her own life at the end of the play. She wasn’t going to let other people dictate her life anymore.
We see that these characters are both similar and different. Nora Helmer has both qualities of Ismen and Antigone. When it comes to Ismene, Nora shares being submissive. They both submitted to societal norms and authority. Nora submitted to her father and husband as a daughter and later a wife and mother while Ismene submitted to the law and King Creon. Nora also submitted to her children as she cared for them. Ismene decides not to help bury her brother, and will do what the king has said. She also urges Antigone not to do it because she will know what will happen to her. Ismene doesn’t want to lose her sister just like she lost her brothers. While Nora shares these similarities with Ismene, she is also different. Ismene wanted to help her sister, but ended up not doing so because of the danger. Nora ends up leaving her life behind despite all of the responsibilities that she had in life.
This is where Nora is like Antigone in a way. Nora leaves her marriage behind because she doesn’t want to be trapped any longer. Like Antigone, she stands up for what she believed in. Unlike Antigone, Nora didn’t have to face the possibility of death. Antigone was willing to die for what she believed in, and she later did, but Nora was willing to leave everything behind to start a new life. Antigone dies a tragic hero while Nora gets her happy ending even though Torvald doesn’t have his wife, and the children don’t have their children. Both go against the laws to do what is necessary for the people in their life. Antigone buries her brother because he deserves to be instead of lying in a battlefield. Nora breaks the law so she can get a loan for her husband, and she later leaves to focus on herself.
This is important due to the fact that these women represent different kinds of women. Henrik Isben and Sophocles show that it is okay to be the woman that you want to be. That we shouldn’t strive to be like the “perfect woman” model that society wants us to be. These women also have character development along with personalities and intelligence. It shows that women are human beings with their own interests and dreams. That they are capable of making their own decisions and choices. That they can be heroes. People who read these plays can relate to someone or something in these stories because the women as well as the situations are relatable and realistic. There isn’t one way that women should think or act because we are all different.
These plays also show the flaws of the patriarchal system as well as how power can corrupt someone. These stories also show that we don’t need to be put in a box that society wants to put us in. That we should fight for what we believe in. I’m not saying that all laws are bad, but there throughout history, we see that certain laws are. These stories also show that women should have rights just like everyone else. Both Sophocles and Isben show that the women’s fate was in their own hands and no one else’s. It shows that you choose your story and how it ends.
Antigone is about a woman with the same time as the title who is willing to die as she goes against the king’s rule to bury her brother while A Doll’s House focuses on the Helmer Family especially Nora who tries to balance being a mother and a secret she is keeping. We see different kinds of women represented throughout both stories. In Antigone, Antigone is the tragic hero figure while her sister Ismene is submissive to societal rules. In A Doll’s House, Nora Helmer is submissive to her husband and family until the end while Kristine is a caregiver searching for a job. Sophocles and Henrik Ibsen both support feminism through the fate of both Antigone and Nora Helmer. In Antigone, we see two different types of representation between the sisters.