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Family Concepts and Traditional Values for Women Report (Assessment)

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Updated: Dec 1st, 2021

World Literature abounds with examples of women who questioned and rebelled against traditional values and powers far prior before the fight for women’s independence started. Among these “House of the Spirits” by Isabel Allende and “Antigone” by Sophocles deserve special attention for they do not directly point out at fighting for women’s rights but depict women who stood up against traditional values and displayed their courage and fortitude. Some readers keep to the point that powerful images of Clara (“House of the Spirits”) and Antigone cannot serve as an example of women’s fighting for their rights, whereas other state that these women succeeded in sustaining their family concepts, at this questioning and rebelling against traditional values and power. It is necessary to consider the “House of the Spirits” by Isabel Allende and “Antigone” by Sophocles in more details in order to find out what exactly these women were defending, which traditional values and powers they questioned and rebelled, and what the results of their non-typical for women behavior were.

What should be mentioned above all is that in both of the works women ventured to question traditional values because they were defending certain family concepts. The protagonist of the “House of the Spirits”, Clara, was a woman with a special gift and strong family values: “Clara lived in a universe of her own invention, protected from life’s inclement weather, where the prosaic truth of material objects mingled with the tumultuous reality of dreams and the laws of physics and logic did not apply” (Allende 92). Clara married Estiban who before this marriage was in love with her sister, Rosa. At the beginning of the story Rosa dies tragically and Estiban marries Clara some time later. When their daughter, Blanca, becomes older she starts dating a young man, which her father opposes since in those times women were allowed to have relationship with men only after the marriage. Esteban gets furious after finding out about his daughter’s love affair and whips her; Clara interferes with the argument and her husband slaps her. Resenting such a treatment she decides never to talk to him again and leaves him taking Blanca with her. Such a behavior was not typical for Spanish women of those times who were family-oriented and submitted to their husbands in all the matters. Standing up for her family concepts, namely not allowing her husband to whip their daughter, she displayed courage and fortitude characteristic for modern women rather than for women of the nineteenth century who, once having got married, were not able to live by their own because they depended on their husbands financially. Moreover, standing up for family issues may be observed in Clara’s and other women of the family trying to preserve the bonds between mother and daughter irrespective of the oppression on the part of men. This is also revealed through Clara’s leaving Estiban. She opted to choose her daughter rather than her husband which means that this bond between mother and daughter was of more significance to her. One more example of demonstrating women’s care about their family can be found at the beginning of the story when Nivea del Valle cut down the tree which was extremely tall and grew beside her house. This reflects Nivea’s sustaining of family concepts since her primary care was about her son. The tree was cut before her oldest son was born for she wanted to prevent him from getting hurt because some of the boys got injured after falling from that tree.

Antigone, in her turn, rebelled against a man for family values of a slightly different character. Athenian women of the times when the play was written (5th century BC) were treated only slightly better than slaves. They were not allowed to go outside in most of the cases and were completely uneducated. This being the reason, a woman who objected to the man’s will or, which is even more terrible, dared to contradict his orders, deserved the strictest punishment of all. However, Antigone stood up against Creon, the ruler of Thebes, for family reasons rather than trying to display her strong character and independence. Her brother, Polynices, died in fight for the throne with Eteocles. Creon declared the former a traitor and forbid to bury his body. In ancient Greece people firmly believed that the soul of an unburied body will never find peace this is why burying a person’s body was obligatory. Antigone dared not to obey to Creon’s orders and buried her brother’s body. Thus, Antigone broke traditional values of Greek women showing her loyalty to family concepts: “But I will go and heap a burial mound / Over my most dear brother” (Sophocles 4). However, her sister, Ismene, can serve as a perfect example of a Greek woman of the fifth century BC. She tries to dissuade her sister from her plan: “Do but consider how most miserably / We too shall perish, if despite of law/ We traverse the behest or power of kings. / We must remember we are women born, / Unapt to cope with men” (Sophocles 3). These lines confirm that Greek women used to appease with their fate and took their being “women born” for granted without even daring to stand up for their rights.

And finally, discussing the results of Clara’s and Antigone’s sustaining their family values by rebelling against men, it should be mentioned that the outcome for Antigone was far more tragic than for Clara. The latter managed to more or less succeed in her life. After moving to her native city, she lived her life with her daughter almost without any difficulties. This shows that women of those times could indeed live without men’s financial or any other kind of support and were simply obeying to them because the society demanded them to act in this way. Meeting Estiban some years later, she kept to her promise and never spoke to him; she was communicating with him by means of signs. She died but later appeared as a ghost to her granddaughter, Alba, encouraging her when she was in despair. Antigone paid another price for her disobedience. Creon locked Antigone in a cave for some time but when he decided to free her, it was already too late; she killed herself before Haemon, a man who loved her and wanted to marry her, found her in the cave. Even facing her death, Antigone remained true to her principles and displayed courage uncharacteristic for women: “Suffer me / And my unwisdom to endure the weight /Of what is threatened. I shall meet with nothing / More grievous, at the worst, than death, with honour” (Sophocles 4). Here it should be noted that Antigone knew about such an outcome even before she dared to disobey Creon’s orders but her loyalty to her brother was stronger than her fear to die, and out of her pride she chose to kill herself which can be regarded as her desire to free herself from the blind submission to men.

Taking into consideration everything mentioned above, it can be concluded that it was far earlier than at the beginning of the twentieth century that women realized their powers and understood that they could rebel against traditional values. The images of Clara from “House of the Spirits” and Antigone from Sophocles’ play testify to the fact that World Literature can provide the examples of women who were independent though in their times they paid a high price for this. They questioned and rebelled against such traditional values as women’s obedience to men and their husbands in particular and women’s inability to be strong both morally and physically, but displaying their fortitude they never forgot about family concepts which were more precious for them than anything else. In fact, these family concepts served as a motive power for their displaying independence and strength of mind because both, Antigone who remained loyal to her brother and Clara who wanted to protect her daughter, contradicted to men and ventured to the actions which were not typical for them only for family reasons. Though the results of their disobedience were regrettable, it can be stated that if either of this women were given a chance to live her life through once again, she would have, without any doubt, chosen the same way.

Works Cited

Allende, I. The House of the Spirits (Everyman’s Library Classics & Contemporary Classics). New York: Random House Inc., 1985.

Sophocles. Antigone: unabridged. Courier Dover Publications, 1993.

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