Feminine Fury: Gender roles

Gender takes on a very important role in The Furies. In one of the two stories prefacing this one, the death of Iphigenia is the first death in the immediate family. Iphigenia is one of Agamemnon’s two daughters and she is the first to suffer death in the family. After her death comes the vengeful death of Agamemnon committed by his wife over her rage that he sacrificed their daughter. Now, does this not seem to be an eye for an eye? A life for a life? Yet, Oreste takes it upon himself to avenge his father’s death by killing his mother. This totals the family deaths out to 3. The saying is not an eye for an eye for an eye. This death of his mother brings a sort of imbalance in the way women’s deaths are treated vs. the way men are. It goes to say that one man’s death equals the death of two women. And if Oreste had killed his father, the ruling may have been more straightforward and to the point. His father was a mighty warrior and his mother was just that; a mother. Athena even takes the side of Oreste and her vote is what saves him from being the 4th death in his family. Because she was born from the head of Zeus and has no mother, she sympathizes with Oreste.

 The furies themselves are also women and seen as old detesting hags. This gives another harsh perspective on older women and categorizes them as grotesque creatures. Their names being “the furies” shows an anger and ill temper in women, as if they are always seemingly furious. Because these furies have never bore children, which is what it seems that every mortal woman’s purpose is, they are now hags. Women who never did their one duty in life and they are now cast out of society and seen as evil, relentless women.

Gender matters very much in this play because there is an obvious power struggle between the killings of daughters, husbands, and mothers. Yet, the mother is the only one who did not kill someone of her same bloodline. The female deaths vs. the male deaths definitely send a message of inferiority and unimportance in women and superiority and power with men.

One thought on “Feminine Fury: Gender roles”

  1. A lively and compelling defense of the Furies! I am really interested in a couple of issues that come up in your post. One is the stakes attached to the word “balance,” and your sense that something’s a little off if we add one more “eye” to that shorthand phrase for retributive justice (an eye for an eye). What does it mean to think about justice in terms of balance? What’s useful about that and does the play suggest that there are any limitations to that concept? (What happens when we have a hung jury? What happens when “an eye for an eye” never stops and we end up with, well, an ever-growing pile of detached eyeballs, I guess?) I’m also interested in the way that the Furies make use of the idea of bloodline as a measure of the severity of the crime. What else needs to be true in order for that perspective to make sense? What’s the counterargument the text gives?

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