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The Roles of Women: Weak Vs.Strong in Thebes and the Ibo Community

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The Roles of Women: Weak vs. Strong in Thebes and the Ibo Community

In America today, women have earned the right to vote, to drive, to work, to hold public office, to own property, and more. However, these rights were far from imaginable in many cultures and societies in the past, and even now in some places. In the Ibo community and in Thebes, women are considered to be less capable than men, which equates to them having fewer rights and justices. In each book, there are examples of women standing up for their rights and not backing down to men, but there are also instances where women succumb to the belief that they are lesser and don't deserve the same rights as men. Therefore, the role of women is depicted as both weak and strong in Things Fall Apart as well as in Antigone.

In Antigone, king Kreon states a decree that Polyneices shall remain unburied after his death, and anyone who should disobey the king's orders will be stoned to death. Antigone, being Polyneices' sister, believes that she should do the right thing and honor her dead brother in a respectful way by burying him. When Ismene questions Antigone's plan to bury her brother by asking if she dare disobey Kreon, Antigone responds with, "He cannot keep me from my own" (Sophocles 22.) This line describes how Antigone is a strong female figure in this book. She's willing to stand up to a man to pursue what she thinks is right, even though she knows there will be consequences for it. Antigone is one of the few characters that defy the typically inferior stereotype of women in Greek tragedy. Her actions, including admitting her involvement in the crime, not allowing her sister to share the blame and punishment, reacting to her death sentence with integrity, and taking her own life as opposed to rotting away like the king wanted, are the things that make Antigone a strong female in a society filled with weak ones.

Those previously mentioned weak females in Antigone are portrayed through the characters Ismene and Eurydice. Although Ismene is also Polyneices' sister, she refuses to join with Antigone in his burial because it would be resisting a man's rule. "We are women, born unfit to battle men; and we are subjects, while Kreon is king. No, we must obey… because I will obey, I beg forgiveness of the dead;" (Sophocles 23) This line, said by Ismene to Antigone, explains how Ismene would rather succumb to the rules of a man, because she's a woman and thinks she has to, than respect her brother's dignity, even though she knows that burying Polyneices is the right thing to do. Eurydice, Kreon's wife, also portrays a weak female role. When Kreon decided to sentence Antigone to death, she was too scared to stand up to her own husband to tell him he was making the wrong decision. Her fearfulness of a man led to her son, Haimon, committing suicide because his soon to be wife was given the death sentence by his own father. Both Ismene and Eurydice depict female characters that let the belief that women are lesser than men to continue.

In Things Fall Apart, women are generally considered weaker than men in the Ibo society, but they also have a few qualities that give them value, which include being wives and having children. Similarly to Antigone, Things Fall Apart also has examples of both strong and weak women. One of the powerful women characters that portray woman in a strong way is Chielo, the priestess. For example, when Chielo comes to Okonkwo's hut to take Enzima to see Agbala, Chielo doesn't surrender to Okonkwo's wishes even though he is a man. "Okonkwo pleaded with her to come back in the morning because Ezinma was now asleep. But Chielo


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