Jupiter, Creon and Oedipus: The Idea of Fatherhood in the Context of Patriarchy Essay
Jupiter, Creon and Oedipus: The Idea of Fatherhood in the Context of Patriarchy
Probing into Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles and Metamorphoses by Ovid, this paper will discuss the role of the father, their similarities, and how fatherhood affects the actions of a character. Suffice it to say that an inquiry into the fathers’ role in the texts necessitates an understanding of the context within which the stories were produced. In this way, we are given an ample framework to understand the roots that influenced such characterizations.
Written around the period Christ was believed to have been born, Oedipus the King and Metamorphoses have at its immediate context of production the era of male rule: in Greece, we have the polis or city-states and in Italy, we have the Roman Empire. Hence, the socio-political climate at the time Sophocles and Ovid wrote their oeuvres is no doubt male dominated.
However, it cannot be denied that the beauty of their works rests on the fact that they have managed to go against the dominant attitude of their time. Also, through their very portrayal of patriarchy the texts are able to foreground its instances. In this sense, the affirmation of the father’s role in the stories reinstate the image of patriarchy yet at the same time, this can also be read as an opening to critique it. The mention of patriarchy thus enables a reading that is critical against and cognizant of patriarchy’s operations.
Law of the father
In Book I of Metamorphoses, one may clearly see how the dominant role of the father operates through the actions of Jupiter, who is able to pursue any woman he wants by virtue of his position as a god. As a father and king of heaven, Jupiter’s role was portrayed by Ovid not in a manner that fits into the current view of what a good god and father should be. Contrary to present day constructions of an immaculate God and responsible father, Jupiter is lustful, impetuous, violent and a womanizer. Among his actions, which are mostly disastrous, what immediately strike us as violent is Jupiter’s sexual relationship with the women he desires – Io, Callisto, Europa and Semele to name but a few.
In Book I, Jupiter rapes Io which causes the later to bear a son, Epaphus. Interesting in this scene is Jupiter’s concern about Juno’s possible discovery of this rape. In a way, Jupiter’s concern signifies his ‘fear’ of his wife. Yet, this fear is not enough to keep him from lusting for other women.
By turning Io into a bull, Jupiter articulates the male perspective towards woman that has been attacked by feminists especially during the advent of the 1960’s. Clearly, Jupiter treats women as commodities that he can dispose after he has done pleasuring himself with them. For Jupiter, it is immaterial whether he sires a child or not with different woman. Jupiter’s idea of fatherhood depends not on the idea of having a family and nurturing a child but on his desire to sleep with any woman he wants.
Jupiter’s idea of fatherhood depends on his sexual escapades that must remain unknown to his wife Juno. Recall that after raping Io, Jupiter turns her into a bull so as to hide her true identity from Juno. However, when things did not go as planned, Jupiter was more than willing to go an extra mile, that is, he can even kill so as to contain the threat of revelation. And so he commanded Mercury to kill Argos so as to keep Juno from finding out about Io.
Also recall that after raping Callisto, a follower of Diana, Jupiter transforms her into a bear and then into a constellation. In the process of this transformation, Callisto was not given agency to decide for herself. The case of Callisto and Io, among others, testifies to the manner by which Jupiter treats women. In Jupiter’s relationship with women, we clearly see the workings of patriarchy, a system that depends on the whim of the all-powerful god Jupiter. His actions as god are equated with the Law itself.
This immunity to punishment informs his actions to the female characters whom he could rape and impregnate as he pleases. His role as a father does not rest then on his desire to have children per se. The numerous children Jupiter has are in fact consequences of his primary desire to sleep with different woman.
The Blinded Father and the Tyrant
In Oedipus the King, the role of Oedipus as a father and king has a certain similarity with that of Jupiter yet in the final analysis, the two are completely different. As king of Thebes, Oedipus enjoys a relatively opportune position just like Jupiter. However, the striking difference between them is the fact that Oedipus is a mortal while Jupiter is god. Unlike Jupiter, Oedipus does not have the luxury to do whatever he pleases since he is bound by his ominous fate. While Jupiter has the power to decide for himself, Oedipus on the other hand can only limit his choices within the fate endowed to him.
Oedipus’s role as father to Ismene and Antigone differs in great degrees from Jupiter’s role as father. We see Oedipus’ love for his children in different cases in both Oedipus the king and Oedipus at Colonus . At the end of Oedipus the king, Oedipus asks his brother Creon to take care of his two daughters, and this exemplifies his concern for them. Blinded and destroyed, Creon still thought of the welfare of his two daughters. In Oedipus at Colonus on the other hand, we see how Oedipus refuses to side with any of his sons who have become greedy for power.
Among the characters in the Theban plays of Sophocles, we can say that the father figure who has greater similarity with Jupiter is Creon. Like Jupiter, Creon cares greatly for his own self. This, as we know, has been the cause of his downfall. After Oedipus’ exile, Creon rules Thebes in a totalitarian manner: no citizen or even family-member could oppose any of his rules. Due to this, not only did Creon alienate the citizens but also his own family. Although Jupiter and Creon are similar in the sense that both rule based on their own whims, they differ in that Jupiter did not have to suffer any consequences for his actions.
Creon is a tragic persona in ancient Greek drama who suffers grave repercussions for his hubris or excessive degree of pride. Hubris harbors the illusion that one’s actions could not entail a disastrous consequence or nemesis. In the case of Creon, the nemesis of his actions is the death of his own son and wife. Creon had been more concerned about his role as a ruler than a father. This makes his son’s death a very painful experience since it also entails the shattering of Creon’s illusion as an omnipotent being. As a father, he loved his son tremendously. Yet it was too late when he realized that his idea of fatherhood has all along been distorted. The price he had to pay for being more passionately attached to his position as king is the death of the two persons who were more valuable than his crown.
The ideas of fatherhood in Metamorphosis and the Theban plays of Sophocles are constructed within the context of patriarchy. This makes the idea of fatherhood strongly related to the power of men. In the case of Creon and Jupiter, the idea of fatherhood is cast a different light since the two characters are more concerned with their role as rulers than as fathers to their own children.
Oedipus, in opposition to Creon and Jupiter, is the one who was able to provide an idea of fatherhood that entails a concern for his children. Although Oedipus, Creon and Jupiter share as common ground their powerful position within a patriarchal society, their ideas of fatherhood have different characteristics and tendencies.