Women in Oedipus

Topics: Oedipus the King, Tragedy, Sophocles Pages: 6 (1954 words) Published: January 18, 2011
The role of women in King Oedipus; a play by Sophocles and Minimum of Two; an anthology by Tim Winton, play their own part in leading the action of these texts. Today I will be focusing on the way they do this, and how their traits change as their lives progress. I will also be exploring how they provide support for their husbands and families, and also the impact of the period of time in which the text was written.

The main female character from Sophocles’ play, King Oedipus, in fact the only female character present, is Jocasta. Jocasta is the wife of Oedipus. She is exposed as a compassionate, competent and loyal woman to her husband; telling him “I will do nothing other than you wish”. This is, of course, when she is unaware of the truth regarding Oedipus.

Throughout the play she acts as a stronghold for her husband, for as long as she can provide it and that he needs and wants her for it; because as the plot continues, she eventually is no longer able to act as an anchor of strength for him, and he becomes less reliant on her and more involved in solving the curse. Constantly she is trying to calm him, and provide a pathway for him that she believes is right, although he doesn’t always agree, and often tries to take things into his own hands.

She is constantly urging him to reject Teiresias’s prophecies, and to let go of this ever building mystery, which she feels will blow out of proportion and out of their control. ‘No man possesses the secret of divination’, she states, ‘And I have proof.’ She is so sure these prophecies are untrue, but feels that he is defying the Gods, attempting to be something bigger, and trying to take things under his own control.

She begs him to believe her, calling on the Gods; “For the love of God, believe it, Oedipus!” At first we see her as a strong woman; one who seems to have control of the situation and of her life, for her first appearance is putting an end to a fight between Oedipus and her brother Creon. However, throughout the play we see her gradually decomposing as a person as the truth is slowly and painfully becoming apparent to her.

In the end see her at her weakest when she turns to suicide to ease the pain; “We saw a knotted pendulum, a noose, a strangled woman swinging before our eyes”. The knotted pendulum with which she hung herself symbolizing the twisted and complicated life she led, torn between truth and fate, and what she felt was best.

From Tim Winton’s Minimum of two we have Rachel Nilsam, a wife and mother who knows she is capable of controlling her life, and deserves better. Rachel is Jerra’s wife, with whom she has a young son, Sam. Rachel appears to be struggling, depressed and constantly being pulled down by Jerra, who finds it immensely hard to let go of his past and move on, as he “seemed to bear weights from the past” much to Rachel’s discontent.

Strangely, this anthology is not written in chronological order, but I have decided to look at the development of Rachel character in the order in which the stories are written in the text, because I feel that Winton obviously put them in that order for a reason.

The first time we are introduced to Rachel, is in Forest Winter when she suffers from a deadly asthma attack which almost led to her death. As the stories progress she becomes stronger and in The Strong One, we see her for who she really is “She had survived something to become Rachel again”. This story is essential because it is when she manages to confront Jerra about what she wants and where she wants to go with her life.

However, through this she is always thinking of Jerra and Sam. She wants Jerra to be able to move forward with her, not just leave him behind. “I’ve followed you round a long time now, Jerra...well, I reckon it’s time you followed me for a while.” We see her in control of her life, but at the same time thinking of what is best for her and her family. Rachel is described ‘as thought she was made from...
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